Paying for school as a non-resident person in the United States can be difficult. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are not eligible for any federal funding and may face some challenges in trying to secure funding for their college education. There are, however, alternative resources available to DACA recipients and undocumented students. There is state-level assistance available in some states and a host of private student loans and scholarships that DACA students can get. In this article, we discuss some things to consider as a DACA student applying to colleges and explain whether DACA students can get federal or state assistance, as well as private loans and scholarships.
Can Undocumented Students Apply for College?
Undocumented students are welcome to apply for college. Only Alabama and South Carolina prevent undocumented students from attending public colleges.
Some schools may consider you a typical in-state student. Others may classify you as a DACA recipient or even an international student. It’s a good idea to check ahead of time what each school would consider you as. Your classification could impact your financial aid options.
Can DACA Students get Federal Student Loans?
Unfortunately, Dreamers are not eligible for federal student loans. You must be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or fall into another category of eligible noncitizen to qualify for federal financial aid.
However, there may still be other forms of financial aid available to you. Your financial aid options could include state or college-provided aid. You can contact your school’s financial aid office to ask about available programs to help you pay tuition.
Can DACA Students get State Financial Aid?
Undocumented immigrants’ eligibility to receive state financial aid or in-state tuition rates depends on your state of residence. Your school may ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for aid from the state or school itself. However, you will need a social security number (SSN) to fill out this form. You can get an SSN as a DACA recipient.
With DACA status, the following states have a Department of Education that allows you to receive state financial aid:
- New Jersey
According to their state's DREAM Act, certain states offer financial aid programs specifically for students under the DACA program. These states include:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
Even if your state doesn’t provide financial aid, you may be able to get in-state tuition rates. These states include:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
Can DACA Students get Private Student Loans?
After considering financial aid options from your school and state, you could consider private DACA student loans. Private loans are more challenging to qualify for than federal ones because there may be credit score or income qualifications. DACA recipients can apply either as DACA recipients or international students, depending on the private lender. Many loans, but not all, may require a co-signer or someone who will guarantee repayment if you cannot pay.
Make sure to look at many options to find the right loan for you. As a borrower, you should consider the interest rate or autopay options and be cautious of potential financial harms.
Can DACA Students get Private Scholarships?
Many private scholarship opportunities don't require proof of U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency. For many private scholarships, you often won’t ever have to pay them back.
There are even scholarships designed specifically for DACA students. These programs include:
- The Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- Immigrants Rising
- The Ascend Educational Fund (for New York City residents)
Many of these programs open applications to high school students pursuing higher education. Consider asking your high school counselor about what options are available to you to know all the potential opportunities before applying to college.
Getting access to higher education by becoming a DACA recipient is an amazing opportunity, even if the student loans process is complicated. Applying for DACA can be a confusing process, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your DACA case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!