Resources for Undocumented Immigrants Applying to College

This is a list of resources that undocumented students applying to college can use. Undocumented students cannot recieve federal financial aid, so this article supplies alternate ways to fund college.


The Supreme Court stopped the Trump Administration from removing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act on June 18th, 2020 (1). The ability to remain within the United States under the Act provides the opportunity for some young adults to attend college. This is a list of resources for undocumented students applying to college. 

There is no federal law that prohibits undocumented students from attending college, but Alabama and South Carolina prohibit undocumented students from enrolling at public post-secondary institutions. This does not affect private universities, who can still accept undocumented students in those states (2). 

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) forbids undocumented students from receiving fininacial aid based on their residence within the United States (2). This means that federal assistance is non-existent for undocumented students. There are other options, however, including state aid in some states as well as private scholarships. 

Federal Aid

The federal government does not provide any aid to undocumented students, which means that federal loans and Pell Grants are unavailable if the student does not have a social security number. Additionally, although many students must complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), it may not be advisable for undocumented students. 

Submitting personal identifying information while not possessing a social security number may make many undocumented students wary. If you do not feel safe submitting the form online, simply print it out and omit the SSN, but do not submit electronically. Possessing the information a FAFSA requires you to compile may be useful when asking for private financial help (3). 

Public Colleges and State Resources

For public 4-year institutions the in-state average yearly price is $21,950, while the out-of-state average is $38,330 (4). For undocumented students in these states, qualifying for a lower in-state tuition could lower the price of college by more than $15,000. 

19 states allow undocumented students to recieve in-state tuition from public colleges. States marked with an asterix * offer state financial aid to undocumented students.

  • Arkansas 
  • California*
  • Colorado*
  • Connecticut
  • Florida 
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota*
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico* 
  • New York
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon*
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas*
  • Utah
  • Washington*
  • Virginia offers in-state tuition for students covered under DACA. 

The requirements for receiving in-state tuition as an undocumented student vary, but they are generally based on in-state high school attendance and graduation. They are not technically based on residency, which allows these 19 states to circumvent the IIRIRA. 

Private Resources

For students who are not receiving in-state tuition or state financial aid, the next resource is private scholarships and college funded financial aid. While some private scholarships may require proof of citizenship, this is not always true. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has a list (5) of scholarships for undocumented immigrants. The blog College Greenlight provides another list (6) of scholarships. 

Students should apply for as many scholarships as they are eligible for in order to increase their chances of receiving one. These private resources are useful to students attending any type of university, but are especially helpful for students who cannot receive in state tuition or aid. 

Works Cited 

  1. Totenberg, Nina. “Supreme Court Rules Against Trump Administration In DACA Case.” NPR. NPR, June 18, 2020.
  2. Michelle Liu, Suzanne Hultin. Undocumented Student Tuition: Overview, 2019.
  3. Best_Schools. “Financial Aid for Undocumented Students.”, June 7, 2019.
  4. Bustamante, Jaleesa. “Average Cost of College [2020]: Yearly Tuition + Expenses.” EducationData, 2020.
  5. “Scholarship Resource Guide.” MALDEF, 2020.
  6. “Scholarships for Undocumented Students.” College Greenlight, August 29, 2017.

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