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“How Undocumented Students Can Get Financial Aid”

For Immediate Release: August 29, 2019

Contact: Nicky Vogt at 610-389-1314 and [email protected] 


ICYMI: U.S. News and World Report: “How Undocumented Students Can Get Financial Aid”


Washington, DC – U.S. News and World Report’s Emma Kerr explores the trials and tribulations that undocumented students experience in their quest to afford higher education. Kerr highlights TheDream.US incoming Scholar Damian, who, before the scholarship, struggled to finance higher education: “I started to grasp what it meant to be who I am. It became frustrating and difficult, because this is when the burden of being undocumented really started settling in.”


Damian recounted the day he received TheDream.US scholarship: “ remember opening that email while I was at work and being so happy that everything would fall into place for me, finally. I don’t have to deal with this uncertainty, which a lot of my undocumented friends talk about, of not being able to know what’s next in your life. I want to be an educated person, I want to contribute, and I want the United States to view me as a person who is working hard. I don’t want this negative image placed on me. I want to prove to myself that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be a citizen and I deserve more.” 


Kerr’s story is available online here and excerpted below:


ONE OF THE FIRST roadblocks undocumented immigrant youths living in the U.S. might face because of their status is learning they are ineligible for federal financial aid like student loans and the Pell Grant, used to pay for college.


When Damian, an undocumented immigrant who preferred to only give his first name, decided he wanted to study beyond high school, he relied on private scholarships and paid out of pocket to cover the remaining tuition bills at a local community college.


…Achieving a community college education required sacrifices, like working 12-hour weekend shifts instead of spending time with friends and eating at McDonald’s on a daily basis. To make it to the next level and pursue his passions for public speaking and teaching, he went on to earn a national scholarship for undocumented students and admission to the University of Illinois—Chicago.


Earning TheDream.US national scholarship offered him a rare moment of relief from the burden of his immigration status, he says.


…As the nation’s largest scholarship program for undocumented immigrants, TheDream.US provides a national scholarship worth up to $14,500 for an associate degree and $29,000 for a bachelor’s degree. This scholarship, which is renewable each year, can also include an additional annual stipend of $1,000 for books, supplies and transportation.


TheDream.US also offers an Opportunity Scholarship for students in states that don’t offer in-state tuition to undocumented youths or don’t allow them to attend college. Covering tuition, fees, on-campus housing and meals at a partnering college, this award of up to $80,000 for a bachelor’s degree is renewable annually.


Many undocumented students are extremely motivated to attend college, says Gaby Pacheco, program director at TheDream.US, but “then the sticker price hits them, and they’re not eligible for the FAFSA, not eligible for these scholarships. They have the desire to go to school, they get accepted, then they’re left with the bill.” But students who receive a scholarship from TheDream.US typically pay little to nothing for college, she says.


Other scholarships to consider include the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s award, which is open to citizens, permanent legal residents, DACA or eligible noncitizens, and Golden Door Scholars, which is open to students who have DACA status. Pacheco says there are also increasingly some small, local scholarships throughout the country that no longer require citizenship.


While there are other options for financial aid from private sources, seeking private loans can be a challenge, Pacheco says, because an undocumented student may have limited access to family members who have a Social Security number and can co-sign a loan.


TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth, having provided more than 5,000 scholarships at more than 70 partner colleges in 16 states and Washington, DC. 

 Read through TheDream.US Scholar story-bank, featuring powerful personal reflections from Scholars about their lives, journeys, and future goals here

Watch a new video featuring TheDream.US college graduates online here