Things That Matter

9 Organizations DACA Students Can Look to for Financial Aid Resources

DACA, DREAMers, the DREAM Act — all of these have been used interchangeably in the past, although there is definitely a difference between them. The term “DREAMers” refers to children of immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have continually studied here. 

DACA, however, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, refers to the executive order signed by former President Barack Obama that provided DREAMers with work permits and temporary legal status. The DREAM Act is a proposed bill to make their legal status permanent.  

Of course, although the United States is viewed by many as the land of opportunity, it’s also the land of wildly expensive college tuition and resulting student debt. 

DREAMers and DACA students have it exceptionally hard, as they are granted little access to federal and state aid, with many having to pay for college out of pocket. How are DREAMers expected to stand a chance when it seems like all the odds are stacked up against them?

Fortunately, there’s a number of organizations that want to help DREAMers turn their dreams into realities, offering financial aid, mentorship and even protection. If you’re a DREAMer, here are some resources you can turn to. 

The Dream is the country’s largest program for higher education and career success for DACA students, advocating for the 1.8 million undocumented youths currently living in America. 

They provide scholarships for up to $80,000, partnering with over 70 colleges across 19 states and Washington D.C. to help DREAMers complete their college education. The only requirement to apply is that the student must have arrived in the U.S. before 2016.

Another great resource is the College Board’s BigFuture, which not only highlights scholarship opportunities but answers difficult questions about college for DREAMers. They encourage, “Your undocumented status might limit your choices — but college is still an option if you have a plan.”

There’s also various organizations that award financial aid based on academic performance, including the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which awards $500-5,000 annually to around 10,000 DACA students with 3.0 GPAs or higher. 

Golden Door Scholars offers scholarships for high-achieving, high need undocumented students who would like to pursue a career path in the following fields: software engineering, nursing, data analytics, business analytics and digital marketing. 

QuestBridge’s mission is to match a qualifying student with a four-year scholarship to their college of choice from a pre-approved list. They prioritize students with strong academic profiles and work experience. 

Ascend Educational Fund awards scholarships based on similar criteria and is open to all immigrant students regardless of status in the five boroughs of New York City. They grant between $2,500-$20,000 in financial aid.

Additionally, My Undocumented Life provides a comprehensive overview of all the information relating to DACA students, including changes to policies, articles, job opportunities and open scholarship application windows. 

Similarly, the Dream Educational Empowerment Program offers a list of resources, making note of myriad scholarships that consider state, legal status, academic history, financial need and other factors. 

Finally, Informed Immigrant helps undocumented students know their rights and spread awareness about every opportunity afforded to them, from learning to how renew DACA status to legal aid to financial aid. 

Although DACA students and DREAMers have a longer road to success ahead of them than most, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. According to Inside Higher Ed, about 2% of college students are undocumented, and that’s a number we hope and expect to continue increasing.

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