The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a long process, in large part because it requires a lot of specific information about both parents and student that can only be found by dredging up tax documents and other financial paperwork.
If you’re involved in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, things get even trickier. This guide walks you through the types of aid available, how to fill out the FAFSA and where else to look for financial aid if you’re a DACA student.
Can DACA students fill out the FAFSA?
Yes, DACA recipients are able to fill out the FAFSA, but they will need to have a Social Security number (SSN) to apply. The parents of the student applying for aid are not required to have a SSN, but if they don’t, they won’t be able to sign the form electronically. In this case, the student should enter “000-00-0000” for their parents’ SSN and print out a paper copy of the form for their parents to sign.
For more information about obtaining a SSN, visit the Social Security Administration’s fact sheet on how to apply.
What financial aid are DACA students eligible for through the FAFSA?
DACA and other undocumented students do not qualify for federal financial aid, including federal student loans and grants. However, DACA students may be eligible for state- or college-based aid. Many of these programs use information from the FAFSA to determine financial aid eligibility; without the FAFSA, you may not qualify to receive need-based or merit-based aid.
State-based financial aid comes from your state of residence rather than from the federal government or a private organization. State-based aid can come in the form of grants, tuition reductions or scholarships. State aid can be both merit- and need-based.
The following states provide financial assistance to DACA students and other undocumented immigrants, according to the Higher Ed Immigration Portal:
- New Jersey.
- New Mexico.
- New York.
- Rhode Island.
- Washington, D.C.
Some states let DACA students pay in-state tuition, which is cheaper than out-of-state tuition, but other states charge out-of-state tuition, even if the student is a resident of that state. To qualify for in-state tuition, DACA students usually need to have graduated from a local high school and pledge to apply for citizenship after they graduate college.
College-based financial aid comes directly from funds allocated by your college. Colleges offer a wide range of scholarships that can be both need- and merit-based. You may be offered scholarships automatically when you receive your financial aid package from the school, though there are typically others that you can apply for independently.
To see what scholarships are offered, check your school’s scholarship resource page or call the financial aid office.
How to fill out the FAFSA with DACA status
Only DACA students with a Social Security number (SSN) can fill out the FAFSA. If you have DACA status, you can apply to get an SSN if you don’t have one already.
The FAFSA will ask if you’re a citizen, so DACA students should answer no for that question. While the FAFSA will ask for your parents’ SSNs, it won’t ask if your parents are citizens.
Parents without an SSN should use the number “000-00-0000” when asked for their SSN. Even though undocumented immigrants often have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), they cannot use that in place of an SSN.
Parents who don’t have an SSN will not be able to sign the FAFSA electronically. They will have to print out the signature page of the FAFSA, sign it manually and mail it to the Federal Student Aid Programs address.
DACA students have to include information from their parents’ previous tax return on the FAFSA, along with their own income and tax information. They can link to those details directly through the IRS Data Retrieval Tool or manually input the figures.
Other resources for financial aid
The FAFSA is not the only way to find financial aid for college. Below are some other programs DACA students may be eligible for.
State-based financial aid programs
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators compiles a list of state-based grants and scholarships. The amounts and eligibility rules vary depending on the state.
For example, California offers the Dream Act scholarship, which provides up to $12,570 a year for up to four years of college for students who are not eligible to file a FAFSA and who have been a California resident for at least one year.
Many schools that offer financial aid to DACA students require that students fill out the College Board CSS Profile to become eligible. The CSS Profile is similar to the FAFSA, except students without an SSN can fill it out.
DACA students are eligible for private scholarships and grants. Here is a partial list of scholarships available to DACA recipients.
TheDream.US Opportunity Scholarship
The Opportunity Scholarship from TheDream.US is available to DACA students who live in a state where they are ineligible for in-state tuition.
These states include:
- New Hampshire.
- North Carolina.
- North Dakota.
- South Carolina.
- South Dakota.
- West Virginia.
Applications for this scholarship open on Nov. 1 of each year, and you could get up to $80,000 to cover college costs, with an annual limit of $20,000. Scholarship winners have to use the funds at one of the following partner colleges:
- Christian Brothers University.
- Delaware State University.
- Dominican University.
- Eastern Connecticut State University.
- Trinity Washington University (Women’s College).
TheDream.US National Scholarship
Unlike the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the National Scholarship is for DACA and other undocumented students who are eligible for in-state tuition at the college they want to attend. Applications for this scholarship open on Nov. 1 every year.
The money can be applied toward tuition at one of the 70-plus partner colleges, including schools like Rutgers University, Hunter College, Arizona State University and the University of Houston. A full list can be found on TheDream.Us’ website.
The scholarship will pay up to $16,500 for an associate degree and up to $33,000 for a bachelor’s degree.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
High school seniors, undergraduate students, graduate students and community college students transferring to a four-year college are eligible to apply for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Scholar Program. The amount awarded is between $500 and $5,000, depending on the student’s need, and applications open on Jan. 1 of each year.
Students must be of Hispanic heritage and can major in any subject.
DACA students should also search for city, regional and municipal scholarships in their own area. A partial list of smaller local scholarships is available on the Immigrants Rising website.
Private student loans
Although DACA students aren’t eligible for federal student loans, they may be eligible for some private student loans. Still, private student loans should be your last option to pay for school, as these loans tend to have higher interest rates than federal student loans and lack flexible repayment options.
To apply for a private student loan as a DACA student, you’ll need to provide the following:
- A state-issued ID.
- Income information (pay stubs, W-2s, tax returns, etc.).
- Your Social Security number.
- Statements of assets (savings accounts, CDs, IRAs, checking account, etc.).
- Proof of DACA status.
You’ll also need to have excellent credit or a creditworthy co-signer to be approved for the loan. However, some companies, like Ascent, offer outcomes-based loans, which don’t require a co-signer and may be easier to qualify for.