Colleges That Admit Undocumented Students: How to Apply and Where to Find Them

Madison Baker  | 

Applying to college can be difficult enough in and of itself, but for undocumented students, the process can get even more complicated. Legally speaking, you can go to college if you’re undocumented, as there are no state or federal laws that prohibit undocumented students from doing so in the United States.

Your documentation status does still affect the college application process. Because you’re undocumented, you aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, and, depending on the state you live in, you might also be ineligible for in-state tuition rates. Additionally, though there aren’t any laws to prevent you from going to college, not all universities are friendly to undocumented students.

Some colleges, university systems, and even states have policies that make it more difficult to apply to college if you’re undocumented. However, there are just as many colleges that strive to welcome undocumented students and make education attainable for everyone. As you begin to research different schools, you need to be aware of which colleges freely admit undocumented students, as well as those that don’t.

The Best States to Attend College as an Undocumented Student

Federal immigration policies in the U.S. change frequently, and when you look at the differences in laws at the state level, things quickly get even more confusing. But because each state has their own immigration policies, some states can provide more financial and educational opportunities to undocumented students. This means that your state of residence will be a key factor in deciding which colleges you apply to.

When assessing your options in different states, there are three major things to consider:

  • Does the state allow undocumented students to receive the in-state tuition rate?
  • Does the state allow undocumented students to receive state-issued financial aid?
  • Does the state allow undocumented students to attend its state universities?

Generally, states that provide all of these opportunities are the best option for undocumented students. If a state only offers some of this support — or, alternatively, none whatsoever — to undocumented students, you may want to reconsider applying to schools there. Again, immigration policies change quickly and often, and having additional resources at your disposal can simplify your entire college experience.

States That Allow In State Tuition for Undocumented Students

Currently, there are 18 states that offer in-state tuition to undocumented students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

In addition, the state of Virginia offers in-state tuition to undocumented students who have a Dreamer status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Being eligible for in-state tuition can make college more attainable for undocumented students, and can play a huge role in whether or not you’re able to finance your education.

States That Allow Access to Financial Aid for Undocumented Students

Certain states also allow undocumented students to apply for state-issued financial aid. In addition, some states may have different provisions for undocumented students with DACA status. Of the 18 states listed above, these six also provide access to financial aid:

Receiving any amount of financial assistance can reduce college expenses, and you stand to benefit greatly from attending college in a state that offers it. Obtaining financial aid as an undocumented student can be difficult; if you reside in one of these states, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.

States That Are Unwelcoming to Undocumented Students

On the other hand, some states are much less open to undocumented students than the ones listed above. While certain states go out of their way be welcoming in this regard, others have clear policies in place that prohibit undocumented students from receiving admission, financial aid, or in-state tuition. Be wary of applying to colleges in the following states:

  • Alabama: Undocumented students are prohibited from attending state universities in Alabama.
  • Arizona: Arizona has passed state laws that prevent undocumented students from receiving financial aid.
  • Georgia: The state of Georgia has passed laws that prohibit undocumented students from receiving state-issued financial aid.
  • Indiana: Undocumented students are not permitted to obtain state-issued financial aid in Indiana.
  • South Carolina: South Carolina prohibits undocumented students from attending public universities.

DACA students are a notable exception here. As long as your legal status is intact, you are free and eligible to attend any public university or college. However, these policies can give you an idea of the general attitude these regions have toward undocumented students. While you should attend the school that best suits your needs, you should carefully consider whether or not you can stay safe and happy in those states.

Your immigration status can make the college application process more difficult, but you still have countless options available to you. When researching schools, keep in mind which states offer the greatest number of opportunities. By applying to schools in states that are more accepting of undocumented students, you’ll provide yourself with the resources and support you need for your entire college experience.


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This post was updated March 28, 2019. It was originally published April 2, 2019.