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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that offers some legal protections and opportunities to undocumented residents who were brought to the U.S. as children.
While DACA recipients can go to college in the U.S., they’re generally ineligible for federal student loans. However, if you’re a DACA student, you have other options for student aid and DACA student loans.
Here’s what you should know about student loans for DACA students:
- How undocumented students can apply for college
- Federal student loans and aid for DACA students
- Private student loans for DACA students
- Financial aid for Dreamers
How undocumented students can apply for college
DACA recipients can attend many colleges in the United States. As of August 2020, the following allow undocumented immigrant students to qualify for in-state tuition:
Only Alabama and South Carolina forbid undocumented students from attending public colleges.
Before you start filling out college applications, it’s a good idea to reach out to the schools you’re considering to see if there are any special rules for applying as an undocumented student.
Some schools might treat DACA applicants like any other in-state student, while others will treat them like international students, which could impact your financial aid options.
Recent DACA legal updates
- January 21, 2021: The Biden administration issued a memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security to “take all appropriate action to preserve and fortify DACA, consistent with applicable law.” This memorandum was in response to a court ruling in Texas that allowed DHS to terminate an individual’s DACA status without notice.
- November 29, 2021: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit repealed a 2018 decision by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that restricted immigration judges’ ability to terminate removal proceedings for DACA recipients.
Federal student loans and aid for DACA students
To qualify for federal student loans, you must be a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or a member of a small list of other eligible noncitizen groups. This means federal student loans aren’t an option for DACA recipients. But you might still qualify for other types of student loans.
Be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office to see if there are any programs available to help you pay for school. Although DACA recipients don’t qualify for federal student loans, your school might ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for aid from the school or even from the state.
Learn More: Federal vs. Private Student Loans
Private student loans for DACA students
After you’ve looked into financial aid options from your school and state, private student loans could help to fill any other gaps.
Depending on the lender, you might be able to apply either as a DACA recipient or as an international student.
If you’re looking to take out a private college loan, be sure to shop around and consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your situation.
Credible makes this easy — you can compare your rates from our partner lenders in the table below that offer student loans to DACA or international students.
|Fixed rates from (APR)
|Variable rates from (APR)
|4.50%9 - 15.49%9
|6.37%9 - 16.70%9
Compare Prequalified Rates
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available. Prequalified rates are not an offer of credit. | 10Ascent Disclosures | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 11Custom Choice Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Learn More: Taking Out an International Student Loan
Financial aid for Dreamers
College scholarships and grants could be another way to pay for college. Unlike student loans, neither of these have to be paid back — essentially making them “free money” to put toward your education.
- Private scholarships for DACA students
- State financial assistance for DACA students
- Financial assistance from colleges
Private scholarships for DACA students
Many private scholarships are available to any applicant in the United States, including DACA recipients.
There are also scholarship programs designed exclusively for DACA students. These include scholarships from:
- The Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- The Ascend Educational Fund (New York City area only)
- California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation (California residents only)
- The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
- Golden Door Scholars
State financial assistance for DACA students
In some states, DACA students can participate in state financial aid programs. There are also several states that offer a special DACA financial assistance program.
And if you don’t qualify for financial aid, you might still be able to get in-state tuition.
States that allow DACA recipients to participate in the state financial aid program include:
- New Mexico
States with financial aid programs specific to DACA students include:
These states offer in-state tuition to DACA students:
University systems that offer in-state tuition to DACA students, include:
Learn More: Student Loan Requirements
Financial assistance from colleges
Many schools offer institutional aid, such as scholarships, grants, or other programs. Some are also able to waive your application fees, depending on your financial circumstances. Be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office to see what resources might be available for you.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, be sure to compare your rates from as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for your needs. You can do this easily with Credible — after filling out a two-minute form, you can see your rates from multiple lenders.