Supporting Undocumented Students and Their Families

Posted by Texas OnCourse Leader Fellow Iris Gonzalez on May 14, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Supporting undocumented students and their families might feel like a daunting task. As a counselor who works primarily with migrant students, I’m happy to share tips and best practices so it’s easier for you to support undocumented students.

Texas and at least 16 other states provide financial assistance and in-state tuition to help undocumented students access higher education. In Texas, undocumented students may qualify for TASFA – the Texas Application for Student Financial Aid.

Let’s take a look at a senior student I had the opportunity to work with, Ricardo.* Ricardo has lived in Texas for more than 36 consecutive months, but he is unsure whether he can afford  the high cost of attending college. As a Mexican citizen living under his aunt’s guardianship, he is not sure if it will be financially feasible for him to attend college. A lot of his friends are securing grants and loans through FAFSA – the Federal Application for Student Financial Aid – but he is not sure he can apply for federal aid.

Which financial aid application should Ricardo use?

Which Application Updated (1)

If you selected the TASFA, you are correct: this is the form Ricardo should complete.

To qualify for state aid, students need to meet four criteria, illustrated in this infographic you can print out and share. Here are other important things to know about the TASFA:

  • A student’s parents’ status does not play a role in eligibility to claim access to state financial aid.
  • Male students have to register with the Selective Service to be eligible to receive state financial aid. They can do so once they reach 17 years and 3 months.
  • To impart state financial aid funds to non-citizens, some colleges and universities prefer that applicants fill out a print version of the FAFSA rather than the TASFA. Be sure you or the student you’re advising checks with the school they’re looking to attend.

Where else can students like Ricardo find the means for financial assistance? Ricardo can apply for scholarships that are specific to undocumented students or have no citizenship requirement. Click here for a repository of resources for undocumented students from the Texas OnCourse Academy Scholarships module.

Undocumented students face many uncertainties in their lives, but accessing education shouldn’t be one of them. The key is to let undocumented students and their families know early on – even as early as middle school – that there is a way to secure funding (without fear of deportation) through state aid via the TASFA and certain scholarships. When school counselors and advisers share the opportunities available to sustain academic growth, students and their families are more likely to take the right steps to success.

We’ve included a few of our favorite resources on guiding students with atypical circumstances here, and we have many more. Be sure to review the Texas OnCourse Academy TASFA module, in addition to our other modules on financial aid, so that you’re prepared to help the most students, no matter where they come from or where they’re going.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

Topics: Grad Requirements, College Planning