A college education can unlock many doors and offer a bright, secure future to those seeking a degree. However, many undocumented students face unique challenges when applying for college and seeking financial aid. Some undocumented students may even assume that, due to their citizenship status, they are unable to attend college. However, that could not be further from the truth. There are many resources, organizations, and laws that exist for undocumented students seeking a higher education. Earning a college degree is possible, regardless of citizenship status.
While laws outlining how undocumented students can apply and pay for college do vary from state to state, Illinois is very clear about the rights and protections offered to undocumented students seeking a degree. Outlined below are a few main rights, responsibilities, and resources undocumented students have when looking to attend college in the state of Illinois.
You Cannot Be Denied Entry To an Illinois College Based On Your Citizenship Status
Just to be clear, no college or university in the state of Illinois can refuse to accept an individual because they are undocumented.
Illinois Guarantees Undocumented Students In-State Tuition
While not every state follow this rule, Illinois has passed a law that protects undocumented students’ right to receive in-state tuition for any Illinois college or university. In-state tuition is often much less expensive than out-of-state tuition, which can ease the financial burden of affording school. In order to receive in-state tuition, students do have to meet certain qualifications, like living in the state of Illinois for a certain number of years. Those qualifications are outlined here.
Undocumented Students Are Not Eligible For FAFSA, But There Are Other Options
Unfortunately, students who are undocumented are not eligible to apply for and receive FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). While FAFSA is often a common way that students find help to pay for college, there are still options for undocumented students to seek financial assistance. Illinois law guarantees that a certain amount of private scholarship funds be directed to non-citizens seeking a college education. If you are a DACA recipient or a DREAMER, there are additional funds and scholarships available to you. Some colleges and universities even offer financial aid through their institution. You can begin your research for some of these scholarships and aid here.
A Parent’s Citizenship Status Does Not Affect A Student’s Ability to Attend College
Some parents who are not citizens themselves, but whose children are citizens, may worry that their status will hinder their child’s ability to attend college. A student cannot be denied entrance to a school based on their parents’ or family members’ citizenship status. In addition, if a student is a citizen, they are eligible to apply for and receive FAFSA, regardless of parental status.
This is just a brief overview of some of the rights and resources available to undocumented students; there are plenty more opportunities and avenues available to attend college regardless of citizenship status. It is important to research your options in order to find the route that is right for you. It is also helpful to ask trusted school counselors, university advisers, and university diversity representatives about other options that can help you achieve a college education.