Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of our most frequently asked question from undocumented students, DACA recipients, educators, family members, and community stakeholders.
Can undocumented students go to college in Tennessee? What if my student is looking for out-of-state options?
For students considering applying to colleges out of state, it is important to know that enrollment policies vary state-to-state. There are currently two states (Alabama and South Carolina) that expressly prohibit the enrollment of undocumented students in public institutions. Additionally, three states (Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana) prohibit undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. When advising students on college options out-of-state, it is best to be aware of the enrollment policies in place at each state. Learn more here.
In Tennessee, undocumented or DACAmented students do not qualify for state financial aid. This includes the Tennessee Promise program and the Tennessee HOPE scholarship.
Our partners, The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), lead the Tuition Opportunity Campaign, which is a movement to pass a bill through the Tennessee legislature allowing undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates. Visit their website to learn more about the campaign and ways to get involved.
For example, when discussing the difference between a public and private institution, this would be a good time to mention that in Tennessee, undocumented students pay out-of-state rates at public institutions. Also, if you highlight colleges and universities, highlighting some that we have identified as undocumented-friendly can help students learn about ways to finance their education. You could also consider visibly displaying a list of scholarships that undocumented students can apply for, with tips on what to know as an undocumented student.
Providing as much information as possible, without directly targeting or calling out students, is the best way to make them feel comfortable enough to look to you for advice.
On Tuesday September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration will rescind the DACA program. (To learn more about what the end of DACA means visit, our DACA information page.)
The end of the DACA program does not mean that students will no longer be able to apply or enroll in college. This does not change enrollment options (see question one).
Students may be most impacted by the loss of reprieve from deportation and the expiration of their work permit. A students DACA and work permit will remain valid until the expiration date, but after that date a student will no longer have protected status or the legal right to work. After the expiration of their DACA, students will return to a status of being undocumented. This could potentially put them at risk of deportation. Additionally, once their work permits expire students cannot legally continue to work. If a student is relying on a job to finance their education, the end of DACA could have significant consequences for that student.
- Learn the correct terminology, and why it matters. Use terms like “undocumented” when referring to your students that do not have legal status. Refrain from using dehumanizing terms like “illegal” or “alien.”
- Do the heavy lift of learning more about the history of immigration in the United States and why some people, including your students, are undocumented.
- Be intersectional in your support for students: Don’t assume all your Latino students are undocumented or that only your Latino students are undocumented. The undocumented community is made up of Blacks, Asians, East-Europeans, and others.
- Display images of support for your students, including information for them on how to apply to college.
- Incorporate self-care techniques into your classroom activity. Can you take 5 minutes a week to teach your class breathing techniques or other ways to handle stress? There is unspoken anxiety and fear in the immigrant community, and your undocumented and DACAmented students may need help processing their emotions in a healthy way.
- Has your school, school district, school board, college, or university put out a statement of support for your undocumented and DACAmented educators and students? If not, can you advocate for them to do so?
You can also utilize our Dream Act Lessons & Resource Guide for a culturally competent manner of incorporating current themes into your classroom discussions.
Also keep in mind that undocumented students may be the first in their family to go to college in the United States. Ensure that they are aware of and comfortable with the process, and check-in with them often to ensure they are successfully navigating the process.
Over its five year history, DACA has allowed almost 800,000 young people to pursue higher education, earn better wager, own homes, start businesses, and more. In Tennessee, over 8,300 young people have received DACA.
On June 29, 2017, Texas led nine attorneys general – including Tennessee’s Herbert Slattery III – in sending a letter to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions giving Trump a deadline to terminate the DACA program by September 5, 2017 or they would file a lawsuit. It is widely expected that President Trump will terminate the program before September 5, 2017. DACA, as an executive order, can be terminated at any time without the need for congressional approval. DACA was passed as a temporary solution, but provides no long-term path to citizenship. Ending DACA will not fix our broken immigration system, only an act of Congress can do that. In recognition of the threat to DACA, and the short-term nature of the program, legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide a more permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants.
On Friday, September 1, 2017, Tennessee’s Attorney General removed his name from the pending lawsuit, instead urging Congress to act on the issue by voting on the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017.
Similarly, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan along with about ten GOP members Congress, have called on President Trump not to end DACA and allow Congress to pursue a permanent solution.
On Tuesday September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that President Trump will end the DACA program.
- DACA and work permits are still valid, and will remain so until their expiration date.
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process initial and renewal applications that have been filed before September 5, 2017.
- USCIS will not accept new first-time DACA applications filed after September 5, 2017.
- USCIS will continue processing first-time and renewal applications that were accepted by September 5, 2017.
- DACA recipients whose DACA and work permits expire between now and March 5, 2018, can apply for renewal as long as they submit their application by October 5, 2017.
- Any renewal applications for DACA expiration dates after March 5, 2018 will not be accepted.
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will no longer allow DACA recipients to travel out of the country through the Advance Parole program. All pending Advance Parole applications will be rejected and all fees will be returned.
- Work permits are valid until they expire or the government demands they be returned. As the DACA programs ends and you are allowed to keep your work permit, you have the right to work legally until your work permit expires. Your employer does not have the right to fire you, put you on leave, or change your work status until your work permit expires.
- Your Social Security Number is a valid number for life, even once your DACA and work permit expires. You can still use your SSN for education, banking, and other purposes.
- In Tennessee, you can get a driver’s license if you have DACA. If you have not yet done so, apply for your driver’s license while your DACA remains valid.
- You may be eligible for another immigration option. Contact Conexión Américas (615.320.5152) to schedule an appointment for an immigration screening or a referral to a trusted immigration lawyer.
If you have DACA and your permit expires before March 5, 2018 and you need help paying the $495 application fee, Mission Asset Fund is offering FREE SCHOLARSHIPS to help Dreamers pay the fee.
Does losing my DACA impact my chances of going to college? What if I lose DACA while I’m in college, what happens to my financial aid?
If you are currently a DACA recipient and your DACA and work permit will expire before you finish your schooling, make a plan to speak to a financial advisor and point people for any other scholarships you have. Here are some questions you can ask them:
- Does my financial aid depend on my DACA status? Will I be able to keep my financial aid even if I lose my DACA status?
- Will my scholarship continue even if I no longer have DACA? Will it be available to me until I have completed my degree?
- Are there other scholarships I can apply for as an undocumented student once I no longer have DACA?
Additional advice and FAQs from the National Immigration Law Center on DACA and employment.