Affording College

First and foremost, it’s important to know that students rarely have to pay the full tuition price listed for attending a specific college or university. There are ways to access aid, get scholarships, and get the financial support you need to cover the cost of going to college.

If you are looking to go to college as an undocumented student or as a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, there are a few things to keep in mind as you plan how you will pay for college. First, undocumented students, including DACA recipients, do not qualify for federal financial aid. Additionally, undocumented students, including DACA recipients, do not qualify for state financial aid – including Tennessee Promise or the HOPE Scholarship. However, there are other ways to pay for college, including local, state, and national scholarships specifically for undocumented students.

But don’t worry! There are other ways that you can get financial support and scholarships to help you pay for college. Depending on where you want to go to college, you may be eligible to apply for Equal Chance for Education.

There are also many national scholarship databases specifically for undocumented students or those with DACA:

Public vs. Private Colleges and Universities

As you look for financial aid and scholarship options, it is important to know that tuition may be different at every school, and will largely depend on if it’s a public or private college or university.

In Tennessee, there is no state law that allows undocumented students, including DACA recipients, access to in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. This means that if you want to go to a public college or university as an undocumented or DACAmented student, you will have to pay out of state rates.

In comparison, private colleges and universities have the same tuition rate for all students. While tuition costs for private institutions may be higher, it is important to know that private colleges and universities have more flexibility in offering institutional financial aid. In other words, private schools have financial aid they can provide to incoming students for merit, need, athletics, and/or band.

For an interactive map of the private colleges and universities in Tennessee that provide financial and/or personal support for undocumented or DACAmented students, visit our undocumented-friendly schools page.

Questions to Consider

As you look for colleges you will be applying to, here is a list of questions to consider to help you prepare to look for ways to help you pay for college:

  • Are you eligible for federal or state financial aid? If so, have you started your applications (including FAFSA, Tennessee Promise, etc.)?
  • What is the listed tuition cost for the schools you are interested in? Are they public or private?
  • Are there any institutional scholarships you could apply or qualify for?
  • Do the schools you’re interested in applying to have specific scholarships for undocumented or DACAmented students?
  • Do you qualify for the Equal Chance for Education scholarship program? Are the schools you are interested part of this program?
  • Do you have a trusted adult who can help you review all the tuition information for the schools you are considering applying to?