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I am an undocumented immigrant, 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:

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

 It is important that your school be aware of your legal status in order 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 student 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 Education Fund (MALDEF) at www.maldef.org for a list of private scholarships available to undocumented students.  (Home→ Education Dept. → Scholarship Programs → Scholarships/Lists de Becas).  Also, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center at www.ilrc.org/scholarship.htm 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.

 

Should I go to a state or private college?

State and private schools offer different advantages to undocumented students applying for college in NY State.  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 NY State schools all have the same policies towards 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 make 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 sources of funding available to offer scholarships to students who cannot receive financial aid from government sources. 

 

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