Financial Aid

for Undocumented Students and DACA Recipients


Financial Aid Options for Undocumented Students

Some undocumented students believe that because they do not have residency status in this country they are unable to attend a U.S. college or university. However, no such federal law exists that says undocumented immigrants are ineligible to attend U.S. schools (although there may be some state or institutional policies in place-check with each school individually). In spite of this fact, financial aid is usually not available to them, making it difficult for this population of students to obtain a college education.

Can Undocumented Students apply for financial aid?

Under current law undocumented student cannot apply for state or federal financial aid. However, undocumented students can apply for some scholarships and awards for higher education that come from private funds. In this case, some colleges and universities will require one or more supplemental forms to obtain information not included on the FAFSA. They may have their own forms or they may ask you to complete the College Board's College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile form.

There are several states that have passed laws providing in-state tuition to those students that have attended high school in their state for a minimum of three years - Rhode Island is one of those states. In September of 2011, the RI Board of Governors for Higher Education unanimously voted to change the policy that prohibited undocumented students from paying in-state tuition.
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In 2016, the RI Promise was established, which allows qualifying students to attend CCRI at no cost (FREE). Undocumented students may be eligible. Visit the CCRI website for more details

State vs. Private Universities and Colleges

State and private schools offer different advantages to undocumented students applying for college in Rhode Island. It is best to apply to several colleges, both public and private, so that you have a range of options to consider.

On the one hand, it is easier to know what to expect when applying to state colleges and universities. The policies of these schools are determined at the state level, so Rhode Island state schools all have the same policies toward undocumented students. State schools admit students regardless of their legal status. Furthermore, qualified undocumented students are eligible for lower, in-state tuition costs. This generally makes state schools more affordable than private schools. However, state schools generally have less private money available for scholarships and financial aid through their institutions.

Private colleges and universities are oftentimes more academically challenging than state schools, a factor that attracts many students. However, many private schools have little or no experience dealing with undocumented students, and there is no one set of policies that these schools follow in admitting undocumented students. Inevitably, some private schools are more willing to accommodate the concerns of undocumented students than others. Private colleges and universities are also more expensive than state schools, and the cost is the same for students regardless of their state of residence. However, once you are admitted, private institutions generally have more private source s of funding available to offer scholarships to students who cannot receive financial aid from government sources.

If I have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), can I still complete a FAFSA?

Yes, and we encourage you to do so. Although DACA students are not eligible for federal financial aid, you may still be eligible for state or college aid, and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you access those other types of aid. To begin your FAFSA, you must enter your Social Security Number. While completing the FAFSA, you must answer the "Are you a U.S. citizen?" question by selecting "No, I am not a citizen or eligible noncitizen." After submitting your FAFSA, you should check with your school's financial aid office to see what types of financial aid you may be eligible to receive.

What if I am a U.S. citizen but my parents are not U.S. Citizens?

When filling out the FAFSA form, if the student is a U.S. citizen but one or both of the parents are not the student is still eligible for federal student aid. It is important for the parent(s) to submit only a valid social security number (SSN), and not one that is legal solely for employment purposes, stolen or made up. If the parent provides an inaccurate SSN, the student’s FAFSA form will be rejected by the government. The parent should use 000-00-0000 on the FAFSA form if he/she does not have a SSN.

Advise for Guidance Counselors and Teachers


Guidance Counselors and teachers must educate themselves on the rights, needs, obstacles and opportunities faced by undocumented students as well as the benefits and risks of becoming an ally.

The following are examples of the work that lays ahead for allies:
  • An ally does not encourage students to act on matters that may compromise them when they have the opportunity to adjust their status.
  • An ally finds legal alternatives that assist students to meet academic requisites when the students are excluded by law from regular participation in employment, federal and state aid, federal programs, paid internships, travel, or the use of identification forms that they do not have.
  • An ally listens openly, yet does not interrogate the student about his immigration status.
  • An ally does not “out” the student to others, without the student’s permission.
  • An ally follows up on referrals to assess the effectiveness of the referral.
  • An ally is committed to maintaining confidentiality and respecting the privacy of people who are undocumented.
  • An ally is constantly vigilant about receiving factual information and does not rely on personal / political views when advising a student. Allies must be professional at all times and do their research and consult advice from immigration professionals before advising undocumented students.