Many undocumented students aren’t sure if they can legally attend college in the U.S. Some automatically assume they can’t. However, there are no federal or state laws prohibiting the admission of undocumented immigrants to U.S. colleges, and schools aren’t required to report undocumented applicants or students to immigration officials. State governments, however, may prohibit undocumented applicants from attending public colleges. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of 2015, public postsecondary institutions in Alabama and South Carolina do not admit most undocumented immigrants.

Individual colleges or state boards of higher education also weigh in. For instance, the Georgia State Board of Regents prohibits undocumented students from attending certain state universities. Most states, however, have provisions that do allow undocumented students to enroll in college.

Students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status often have more access to higher education than undocumented immigrants without this status. That’s because DACA gives qualifying students “lawfully present” status. Therefore, even in Alabama and South Carolina, DACA students can apply to most public post-secondary institutions, although other undocumented students cannot.

That doesn’t mean these students receive in-state tuition, however. Each state individually legislates the process through which DACA students apply for college, and state policies vary widely. In Georgia, for example, DACA status still doesn’t equate to in-state tuition. And in Arizona, although DACA students receive in-state tuition at certain state institutions, they aren’t entitled to state financial aid.

Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid. Individual states and colleges, however, distribute separate financial aid packages and have the authority to control how that money is spent. Some states, such as California and Texas, offer state financial aid to undocumented students. As of April 2017, eight states (not including North Carolina), take this approach, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Many organizations also offer scholarships to undocumented students.

Students who have been granted DACA can now use their Social Security Number (SSN) to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. DACA-mented students are NOT eligible for federal financial aid, but completing the FAFSA form allows DACA students to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is an important tool that can be used to demonstrate need and can be used to apply for institutional aid and other private scholarships.

As of April 2017, the National Immigration Law Center lists 21 states plus D.C. as having tuition equity laws or policies in place at some or all of their higher education institutions. This means undocumented students residing in those states can take advantage of less expensive in-state tuition and fees if they’re accepted and enroll. In North Carolina now, no state-level policies have been approved addressing undocumented student access to higher education. Both undocumented students and DACA recipients are considered out of state for tuition purposes. The following website stays up to date with current policies, which can always change. https://uleadnet.org/map/north-carolina-policy

Probably not. Students need a social security number to submit the FAFSA, and DACA is the only way for an undocumented student to get a social security number.

Whether DACA students should submit a FAFSA is debatable. Many states, educational institutions, and private scholarship foundations use it to determine a student’s financial need, so not filling it out could potentially block access to free money. But some people are understandably hesitant about providing this information unnecessarily to the federal government. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, for instance, recommends students print out the FAFSA with the completed information and submit it only to the educational institution and/or scholarship foundation being applied to, but not to send it to the federal government. Schools and other institutions can determine the financial need from the information on the application, and students bypass the step of providing data at the federal level.

It depends. Some states allow undocumented students to apply for state financial aid using the same process as U.S. citizens. Others, such as Illinois, have separate mechanisms for undocumented students seeking financial aid. Most individual colleges also exercise considerable discretion over how to distribute their own funds, which come from their endowments, alumni foundations, and other sources. There are also several scholarship opportunities that are open to all students, regardless of immigration status. For some examples, jump down to the scholarship section of this guide.

Private scholarships are one promising source of funds. (Several are listed below.) There are also steps you can take before you even graduate from high school, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. For example, you can rack up Advanced Placement (AP) credits, allowing you to opt-out of certain general requirements in college. You won’t have to take and pay for those classes, and that can help you graduate faster, which means you’d pay less tuition over time. Many states have programs that allow high school students to take AP classes for free online. Some states even subsidize the cost of testing fees for low-income students. (The Education Commission of the States keeps a state-by-state profile.)

This depends on your personal level of comfort, but it is good to have an advocate if you find an adult at school who you trust. Counselors are not legally permitted to ask about students’ status, and, if they are aware of it, are not required to report undocumented students to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In many cases, disclosing status can actually be helpful, as a financial aid counselor’s job is to help students get through college. The more they know about an individual’s circumstances, the more they can design a strategy that fits that student’s needs, such as by pointing out workarounds to the FAFSA dilemma. The Office of Federal Student Aid recommends this approach.

You could get into legal trouble if you lie about your status on an official form. Using a social security number that isn’t yours is a federal crime. That’s especially bad if you try to submit the FAFSA illegally, but it’s also unacceptable for college applications. If you’re asked about your social security number on an application, leave it blank. If you’re working on an online application where that’s not an option, enter 000-00-0000. And if that still doesn’t work, fill out a paper application. The same principle holds true if you’re asked about the country of citizenship.

Not every school has explicit policies or programs welcoming undocumented students. In such cases, there’s a lot of potential benefit in talking in ‘what-if’ scenarios. Try calling a school office and inquiring about resources for a hypothetical student whose circumstances match yours; there’s no obligation to disclose your name.

The FAFSA doesn’t ask about your parents’ status. If your parent does not have a social security number, you may enter all zeroes for him or her on the FAFSA where it asks for that information (see below for more details). NOTE: If a student that is a citizen or eligible non-citizen is applying to FAFSA, their parents’ citizenship status does not affect their eligibility for federal student aid. Most admissions applications will not ask about your parents’ citizenship status. If you see a question you don’t know how to answer, you can call the college’s admissions office and ask for advice anonymously.

Yes, it is the law in NC that everyone completes the RDS process along with the admissions process. If you have DACA you will be classified as a non-resident but can at least complete your application for admission. If you are a U.S. citizen with an undocumented parent, your RDS process will be more complicated, but CFNC has resources to help you:
https://ncresidency.cfnc.org/residencyInfo/pdf/Top10ToKnow.pdf and