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Financial Aid and Scholarships for Undocumented Students


This page contains information about financial aid and scholarships for undocumented students and illegal aliens. (The terms "undocumented student", "illegal alien", and "illegal immigrant" are used interchangeably and intentionally in this page to enable this page to be found by students who are trying to find information about scholarships for undocumented students.) This page provides a neutral, objective and comprehensive summary of this topic.

Financial aid is generally not available for undocumented students and illegal aliens. The majority of all student aid, including Federal student aid, requires the recipient to be a US citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) or an eligible non-citizen. There are, however, a few states that allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates. There are also several private scholarships available to undocumented students.

In-State Tuition

There is a conflict between Federal and State law regarding the eligibility of undocumented students for in-state tuition rates.

Federal law passed in 1996 prohibits illegal aliens from receiving in-state tuition rates at public institutions of higher education. Specifically, Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Title 8, Chapter 14, Sec. 1623(a)) states: "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, as of 2015, 17 states had at some point since 2001 passed statewide in-state tuition legislation for undocumented immigrants. This analysis included Wisconsin, which revoked its policy in 2011. In addition, at least five state university systems have adopted in-state tuition policies - University of Hawaii, University of Michigan, Oklahoma State, Rhode Island, and now University of Maine - bringing the count of states with inclusive tuition policies up to 21.

In the 2017-2018 state legislative session, NASPA, the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession, Policy and Advocacy Team tracked 21 pieces of legislation regarding in-state tuition for undocumented students in 12 states. Currently 10 pieces of legislation are still pending, while 11 pieces of failed to pass. Visit NASPA for an updated status map. You can also find more information on In-State tuition with The National Immigration Law Center (NILC).


Another potential source of financial aid is private scholarships. There are a few private scholarships for undocumented students that do not require the student to be a US citizen or resident or have a social security number in order to apply. Scholarship opportunities can be found on Fastweb, the nation's recognized leader in helping students pay for school, by setting up a profile and indicating your residency status.

Other good resources include the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund and for California students Latino College Dollars: Scholarships for Latino Students. See also Ayuda Financiera del Estudiante en Español.

Federal Student Aid

If the student is a US Citizen but one or more parents are undocumented, the student is eligible for federal student aid. However, if the parents supply a fake or stolen social security number (SSN) on the form, the student's FAFSA will be rejected when the parent's social security number fails to match. The FAFSA may also be rejected when the parents submit a SSN or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) that is valid for work purposes only. If the parents do not have a social security number or the social security number fails the match, they should use 000-00-0000 as their social security number on the FAFSA form.


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