Now that the elections are over the topic of immigration reforms has taken center stage once again. It is uncertain whether the president will kidnap the legal process and make his own policy regarding immigration or whether Congress will reach a consensus themselves. Whatever happens, there are still processes in existence that many immigrants can take advantage of, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA is a very powerful and useful program for “Dreamers” and I try to promote it as much as possible. Although past articles have explained how to apply for DACA or what can be done with the approval, this article will explain some frequently asked questions about obtaining financial aid for college and the next article will talk about scholarships.
One of the most frequently asked questions about DACA is whether undocumented or DACA students are eligible for student aid for college? Generally speaking, the answer is yes. DACA students are eligible for most student aid with the exception of federal aid and some state financial aid. Although Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application process for obtaining federal aid, completing the application process is still useful for DACA students because it gives access to information about financial aid available to everyone.
If you have a Social Security number obtained as a result of your DACA approval, the Federal Aid office encourages students to complete a FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov. It is also recommended that you check first with your high school counselor, college or career school financial aid office to see what types of financial aid you may be eligible to receive and whether completing the FAFSA is the way to apply for that aid.
There are a couple of questions about the legal status of parents that come up often as well. A common question is whether their status affects your eligibility to receive student aid. The status of your parents is irrelevant to your ability to qualify and receive student aid since the student aid relates directly to you and your education. In fact, the FAFSA doesn’t even ask about your parents. They do, however, ask for your and your parents’ state of legal residence. Your parents’ legal immigration status does not affect how you should answer this question for purposes of completing the FAFSA. Your answer should reflect the true, fixed, and permanent home for all of you. In our case, the answer is Michigan. If you are not a Michigan resident, you should ask your high school or college counselor for assistance as each state determines legal residency differently.
What about the question that reads, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” DACA students must answer that question by selecting the option “No, I am not a citizen or eligible noncitizen.” It is extremely important to answer this question correctly because there are serious penalties for claiming to be a citizen when you are not.
Another common question is whether undocumented students or DACA students can receive in-state tuition. Although this depends on the specific state where you desired school is located, many states specifically allow in-state tuition for undocumented or DACA students. In the state of Michigan, in-state tuition is allowed for undocumented students at many schools, including the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University. Please check with your high school counselor or college financial aid office for more information.
The general rule with any of these eligibility questions is to just ask. Anyone who works in the financial aid office or admissions office will have access to most of the answers you need to apply and attend college.