You applied to college and you got in. Congratulations! Why so blue? You’re an undocumented student and you can’t afford college on your own? I get it.
The first eligibility qualification for federal student aid is “you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.” The second qualification for most (but not all) state aid—right after the one that says “you must be a resident of that state”—is “you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen”. Don’t throw in the towel just yet! Sure, your options are limited—but you do have options.
Look Into Your State
Some states are allowing state residents who are undocumented students to attend state or public universities at in-state tuition prices. There has been a lot of media coverage about this over the last few years. There are also states that have begun to offer state financial aid to these students. For example, Minnesota passed the MN Dream Act in May, 2013—providing undocumented students more options to reach their college goals. Here’s more information about the options available to students in Minnesota. California is another state that offers a lot of resources for undocumented students.
Not all states are on board with offering state-funded resources to undocumented students. If you live in a state that isn’t, you may still have other options (keep reading below). Plus, other states, including New York, have new legislation in the works that could assist you if it passes into law.
Scholarships From Private Organizations
Not all scholarships are just for U.S. citizens—and some don’t take citizenship into account at all. Finding these can be tricky, though. That’s because many scholarship searches will ask for your citizenship status, and some may rule you out immediately if you aren’t a U.S. citizen. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, ChooseYourFuture.org, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and MALDEF.org are a few sites that I found helpful when searching for scholarships for undocumented students. If you’re savvy with Google, I’m sure you can find even more out there!
Colleges And Universities
Some colleges and universities will provide financial aid to undocumented students, as well. See the College Board’s Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students for their list of colleges by state that offer aid to undocumented students. This list is not exhaustive, however. Funding can, and likely will, change annually at schools across the country. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your financial aid office if there are any options for you. Depending on your school, they may have a large population of undocumented students and have recommendations just for you.
What should you do if you’ve checked with your state, your school, and applied for scholarships from private organizations, but you still have a gap? Unfortunately, no one said this would be easy.
You could look into private student loans. Keep in mind that not all lenders will find you eligible if you aren’t a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen. Some will allow you to borrow if you have a U.S. citizen as a co-borrower—and they may limit how much you can borrow.
You may even need to evaluate your attendance. Maybe going to school half-time and working part-time will be an option that allows you to best manage your tuition bills. It’s not ideal, and it will take you longer to graduate, but think of what you’ll be getting in the long run—an education and (hopefully) a brighter future.
Are you an undocumented student who has had success financing your college education? Share your story in the comments!