Current U.S. laws dictate that undocumented students, even if they have a Deferred Action (DACA) approval, are not eligible for grants and scholarships at the federal level. This includes federal Pell grants or federally-backed loans or work-study positions. However many colleges, foundations, and local scholarship organizations provide scholarships for DREAMers and DACA grantees.
Because there is no federal funding right now for DREAMers, the best place to start looking for scholarships and financial aid for undocumented students is on the state and local community level. Since many states differ in their laws about DREAMers and DACA grantees, your financial options might depend on which state you live in and which state you wish to attend school.
Public/In-State Tuition Benefits for Undocumented Students
More states are passing legislation allowing DREAMers and other undocumented students access to in-state tuition and other educational benefits. Here are the current state offerings for in-state educational benefits for undocumented students:
In-State Tuition Benefits
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
Tuition Policies Similar to In-State Tuition
- Minnesota* (Minnesota’s DREAM Act has passed their House and Senate and should be signed by the governor any day now. It will provide in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students. Learn more about it here.)
Ban on In-State Tuition
- South Carolina
Want to see more in-depth descriptions of each of the state laws? Check out this recently updated report from National Immigration Law Center (NILC) as well as their Basic Facts About In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrant Students.
Private Scholarships & Aid for Undocumented Students
Look for scholarships at the state and city level, as well as those provided by nonprofits and immigrant activist organizations. Here is a great resource from United We Dream that helps you find a DREAM Act/Immigrant Activist organization in your area that may offer scholarships. If you are active in the DREAMer/Immigrant Rights community, there might be scholarships available to you from certain DREAMer organizations that want to reward your hard work and activism.
Undocumented students can target their search towards scholarships that don’t require proof of citizenship, legal permanent residency, or FAFSA completion, but those with a Social Security Number will have access to many more scholarships than a student without one. The only way to get a Social Security Number if you are undocumented is to apply to DACA. If you are an undocumented student without a Social Security Number, we strongly suggest you apply for DACA to take advantage of this opportunity and many others.
Only undocumented students with a valid Social Security Number can fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. As stated above, even DACA-mented students with an SSN cannot use FAFSA to obtain federal money. However, many colleges and universities use FAFSA for their internal scholarships, which still require a valid Social Security Number. Many DACA-mented students have been able to secure generous financial aid and scholarship packages from private colleges and universities through this method.
There are countless organizations offering small, private scholarships to undocumented students, DACA candidates, and DREAMers. Although many scholarship deadlines for the 2013-2014 school year have already passed, always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Here are some great resources and examples of scholarship benefits available to undocumented students:
- E4FC.org: 2012-2013 Scholarship List and Guide for California/Bay Area Immigrant Students
- List of Scholarships for Undocumented Students
- The Illinois DREAM Fund
- MALDEF’s Scholarship Resource Guide
- United States Hispanic Resource Institute: Student Resources
- CORE’s Que Llueva Cafe Scholarship
- UC Berkeley Receives Largest Ever Donation for Undocumented Students