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Immigrant Students

Frequently Asked Questions by Immigrant Students
(presented by The New York Immigration Coalition/CUNY USS - click here for actual page)

Can I apply for college? 
Yes, undocumented students can apply for college.

State colleges and universities should not ask for any information regarding your legal status when you submit your application. When applying to a state college or university, you are not required to put a social security number. You can leave the space blank on your application with no effect on your likelihood of acceptance. State schools are not required to report undocumented students to the federal government; however, they are required to report international students with a student visa from a foreign country. Once accepted to a state college or university, make sure you are not mistakenly classified as an international student.

Private colleges and universities determine their own policies toward undocumented students. If you are interested in applying to a private institution, call the admissions office and ask if they have any particular policies toward undocumented students. Some schools are more accommodating than others. If you are nervous about calling, ask a friend or guidance counselor to inquire on your behalf.

Am I eligible for in-state tuition rates?
Non-resident tuition for state colleges and universities is significantly higher than in-state tuition. In New York, undocumented students are eligible for in-state tuition if you meet the following requirements:

  •      You have attended for at least two years and graduated from an approved New York State high school and apply for attendance at a SUNY, CUNY, state-operated, or community college within five years of receiving a high school diploma, or
  •      You have attended an approved New York State program for General Equivalency Diploma preparation, received a GED issued in New York State , and applied for attendance at a SUNY, CUNY, state-operated, or community college within five years of graduating high school.

     In order to claim residency status for tuition purposes, undocumented students must:

  •      File affidavit state that s/he has filed or will file application for legal residency
  •      Show proof of domicile (rent checks, pay stubs with a NY address, high school records, etc.)

It is important that your school is aware of your legal status to ensure that you may qualify for resident tuition rates. Check to make sure that you are not classified as an international student, as international students are charged higher tuition costs.

Can I apply for financial aid? 
Under current law, undocumented students cannot apply for state or federal financial aid. However, undocumented students can apply for private scholarships and awards for higher education. See the web page for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) at 
www.maldef.org for a list of private scholarships available to undocumented students. (Home à Educational Dept. à Scholarship Programs à Scholarships/Lists de Becas). Also, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center at www.ilrc.org/ has additional information.

Should I fill out a FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? 
Because undocumented students cannot receive federal or state financial aid, it is not necessary to fill out a FAFSA form. However, you may wish to fill out a FAFSA in order to determine your estimated family contribution. If you are applying for private aid through a college or university, the school may need to know your estimated family contribution. In this case, fill out the FAFSA, leaving your Social Security number blank and marking “c. No, I am not a citizen or eligible non-citizen” in box 13 . The application will be rejected and returned to you, but will include your estimated family contribution, which can then be used by your school to determine your financial aid package.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Undocumented Students
(presented by College Sense - click here for actual page)

Financial aid is generally not provided to undocumented students or illegal aliens. Federal and state financial aid programs require the recipient to have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency (i.e., have a green card). Undocumented students, however, can qualify for private scholarships and grants.

New York State does allow undocumented students who attended high school within the state for three or more years to receive in-state tuition to its public colleges and universities. This law considerably increases the likelihood that an undocumented student will be able to afford his/her tuition without financial 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. (
finaid.org)

Undocumented students should begin researching scholarships and grants early because there are fewer sources. Undocumented students and families should make inquiries to their community-based organizations and churches. Other useful resources to review are:

FastWeb The Internet's leading scholarship search service helps students make decisions that shape their lives: choosing a college, paying for college, and finding jobs during and after college.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) Leading non-profit Latino litigation, advocacy, and educational outreach institution in the United States.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) The nation’s leading organization supporting Hispanic higher education.