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Is Financial Aid Available Only to US Citizens?

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The short answer: no! However, for non-US citizens like international students and undocumented students, options to relieve some of the tuition burden are limited because they cannot receive any federally funded aid. This mean that they cannot complete the FAFSA or receive federal aid, including subsidized loans and work-study jobs. In addition, many scholarship opportunities are only open to US citizens.

Even if federally funded aid is not an option, there are other ways to pay for college. So what options are available to undocumented students and international students?

For International Students

It largely depends upon the school where the student applies. Many institutions will give grant aid to all students regardless of their citizenship status, and will give more aid to students who don’t qualify for federal aid. For example, Skidmore College awards $56,600 on average to international students, while Yale University awards $55,862 on average.


However, many schools that do offer financial aid to international students don’t offer very much, and the aid they do offer is fairly competitive. Tufts University explains this on its financial aid website. It reads, “Because Tufts relies on federally-subsidized funds for which international students do not qualify, the university must draw on limited institutional resources (primarily grants) when aiding international students.” 


Some banks offer loans for international students. International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) is a resource for international students wishing to study in the United States that compiles loan options. While many of these options require a cosigner who is a US citizen or resident, there are options that don’t require the student to have any previous connection with the United States.


Independent scholarships are also an option: International Student has a scholarship search engine for international students to find scholarships for which they are eligible to apply. While scholarships aren’t a guaranteed source of aid, they can be, especially if a student takes the time to apply for as many as possible.

For Undocumented Students

Undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid. This includes those in DACA. For undocumented students hoping to receive aid in college, the state that the future university is in is key. University of the People compiled a list of states that offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, where undocumented students who currently reside in the state can receive reduced tuition meant for residents of that state. Additionally, six of these states offer state financial aid to undocumented students: California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington state.


It’s also important to know when in-state tuition will not be an option. Bestcolleges.com has created a College Guide for Undocumented Students, and according to them, Arizona and Indiana all have passed specific legislation that prevents undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition price reductions. South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama prevent undocumented students from enrolling altogether.


Private scholarships are also an option, and there are private scholarships created and geared specifically toward undocumented students— The University of California website compiles a list of these. The University of California also offers grant aid to undocumented students, and some UC campuses offer work-study job options. UCLA and UC Berkeley have comprehensive programs that help provide support of all kinds to undocumented students during their time on campus.


As is the case with international students at many schools, many private universities offer grant aid to undocumented students. For example, Pitzer College in California offers a need-based Undocumented Student Scholarship. Smith College encourages undocumented students to apply for financial aid, and guarantees to meet 100% of demonstrated need for all students they admit, regardless of their citizenship status.

No. Financial Aid is not only available to US Citizens!

The moral of the story is that there are options outside of US federally funded aid that non-US citizens can take advantage of when applying to college. There are many resources that are available to help you along the way, but non-US citizens should budget more time to fully take advantage of these financial aid alternatives.

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