How to Recieve Financial Aid as an Undocumented Student

Federal Pell Grants, federal student loans, and work study programs, among other financial resources, are not currently available to undocumented students. Though access to higher education is undoubtedly limited for U.S. immigrants, there are affordable options regardless of your citizenship status.

Should you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form?

  • With DACA: Yes! If you have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, you can benefit from filling out a FAFSA form. Your DACA status affords you a social security number, which means that you will be able to complete your FAFSA form. Although you will not be eligible for federal aid, this form will give you access to other aid opportunities. This will allow you to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which shows demonstrated financial need and can be used to apply for aid through a specific institution and private scholarships (3).
  • Without DACA: No! Because completely undocumented students do not have Social Security numbers (SSN), they will not benefit from filling out the FAFSA form. There are scholarships (listed below) specifically for students without any legal citizenship documentation.
  • If your parents/guardians are undocumented: Yes! The FAFSA form does not ask about parents’ citizenship status. Information should never be falsified on federal forms. FAFSA will require parents’ SSN. In its place, fill this line in with all zeros. Even if your parent has an Individual Taxpayer identification Number (ITIN), do not use it in place of an SSN. Enter the parent’s income question manually rather than using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. Without a SSN, undocumented parents cannot create a PIN, typically needed to virtually “sign” the form with. Instead, you should print, sign, and mail in ONLY the signature page (4).

If you fill out the FAFSA form for need assessment purposes but don’t feel comfortable submitting it to the federal government, you can download or print it and send it directly to the institution or organization you’re applying to.

Can undocumented students receive in-state tuition?

In some states, yes! As of now, 21 states have “tuition equity” policies. These policies allow students who have met certain criteria to receive in-state tuition rates and state financial aid, regardless of immigration status. States with these laws include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia (5).

Each state has varying criteria for who qualifies for in-state tuition. It’s typically true that:

  • Students must have several years of established residency in the given state.
  • Students must have graduated from high school or obtained their GED in the given state.

What are other resources to make college affordable?

Apply to private scholarships! Whether you’re planning to attend a private or public higher education institution, private scholarships are a resource for you. Even if you don’t need financial aid for tuition, these funds can be used for transportation fees, books, and other school supplies. Below are websites with comprehensive lists of private scholarships that do not require any citizenship status or are specifically directed towards undocumented students.

Works Cited

  1. "Undocumented Students". 2020. NASSP.
  2. Census Bureau, US. 2020. "Educational Attainment In The United States: 2018". The United States Census Bureau.
  3. "A Reference Guide For DACA Recipients". 2020. Unitedwedream.Org.
  4. "Scholarshipsa-Z". 2020. Scholarshipsa-Z.
  5. "Basic Facts About In-State Tuition - National Immigration Law Center". 2020. National Immigration Law Center.

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