Resources for Undocumented Students in Higher Education

This article was originally posted to the Generation Progress website.

By Christian L. Smith and Anthony Solis-Cruz | Posted JULY 25, 2017, 12:23 PM

Updated May 31, 2019.

It is important that every prospective student seeking their postsecondary education is given the opportunity to pursue their goals and careers without barriers and immense financial burden. However, there are a number of unique challenges for undocumented immigrants as they pursue those same aspirations.

There are local efforts to make college more affordable for these young immigrants who’ve grown up in our country and who are American in every way but name. Several states allow for eligible, undocumented students and students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to pay in-state tuition rates. Six states (California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington) have opened their state-based financial aid to these students. However, the fact that these students are ineligible for federal student aid is one of several factors that can present challenges for undocumented students to afford the full costs of attending college.

Below, we’ve highlighted a few scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate programs which undocumented and DACA students are eligible to apply for. Many other organizations have resources to support these students:–whether that be their own scholarship lists, info on how to navigate financial aid, or general tips and recommendations. We’ve included an aggregation of those resources at the end of this post. If you have questions, or simply a resource to add, please contact Christian Smith at For the previous version of this page, please click here.

Highlighted Undergraduate Scholarships and Programs


National Scholarship

Opens: November 1, 2018

Closes: February 28, 2019 at 11:59 PM PST (CLOSED)

(The 2020-2021 Scholarship should open in November 2019)

Opportunity Scholarship

Opens: November 1, 2018

Closes: January 31, 2019 at 11:59 PM PST (CLOSED)

(The 2020-2021 Scholarship should open in November 2019)

Description: TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for DREAMersTheDream.US scholarships are for highly motivated DREAMers who want nothing more than to get a college education, but are unable to afford the cost due to limited or no access to federal aid, limited access to state aid, and who, in certain states, face paying out-of-state tuition.

The National Scholarship is for high school or community college graduates. The Opportunity Scholarship is for students who live in targeted, locked-out states where they cannot get in-state tuition. Your eligibility for both is based upon where you live.

Union Plus Scholarship (2020)

Opens: Mid-June, 2019

Description: Since 1991, the Union Plus Scholarship Program has awarded more than $4 million to students of working families who want to begin or continue their post-secondary education.

The Union Plus Scholarship Program is offered through the Union Plus Education Foundation, supported in part by contributions from the provider of the Union Plus Credit Card. (You do not need to be a Union Plus Credit Card holder to apply for this scholarship.)

Current and retired members of participating unions, their spouses and their dependent children (as defined by IRS regulations). At least one year of continuous union membership by the applicant, applicant’s spouse or parent (if applicant is a dependent). The one year membership minimum must be satisfied by May 31, 2017

Hispanic Scholarship Fund Program

2019 – 2020 Scholarship deadline: February 15, 2019 (CLOSED)

(The 2020-2021 Scholarship should open at the end of December 2019)

Description: The HSF Scholarship is designed to assist students of Hispanic heritage obtain a college degree. Scholarships are available, on a competitive basis, to high school seniors, undergraduate students (all years), community college students transferring to four year universities, and graduate students.

Migrant Farmworker Baccalaureate Scholarship    

(Please visit the Geneseo Migrant Center website for updates to this scholarship, and to see other available scholarships)

Description: The purpose of this scholarship is to provide financial support to a deserving student with a history of migrating for employment in agriculture who has successfully completed one year of college. This support will cover expenses beyond what the youth is entitled to in federal/state and other scholarship assistance. This scholarship is designed to assist the youth in obtaining a baccalaureate degree without being encumbered with substantial debt. This scholarship is made available through a generous endowment from an anonymous, concerned individual for the education of children of migrant farmworkers.

Scholarship America’s Dream Award

Opens: (Get email notifications for application opening)

Description: The America’s Dream Award is offered to students who have completed at least their first year of college and who demonstrate a significant financial need. The scholarship is meant to ensure students have the financial assistance they may need in order to complete their degree. The award is renewable and open to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and DACA recipients.

Applicants must have completed, or expect to complete, one full year of an associates or bachelors degree program by June 2020, and maintain a GPA average of  3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

Opens: January – March 31.

Closes: April 1

Description: The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund aids people active in movements for social and economic justice. These need-based scholarships are awarded to students who are able to do academic work at the college or university level or are enrolled in a trade or technical program and who are active in the progressive movement. The Fund has helped provide financial aid to students that are enrolled in college and involved in either social or economic activism.

Golden Door Scholar

Closes: September 16, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST

The Golden Door Scholarship is aimed at providing financial aid to DACA students, who have historically not been allowed federal financial aid and who are oftentimes charged international student tuition rates in certain states. Strong preference will be given to applicants who plan to concentrate their studies in career-ready (STEM) degrees. Scholarship recipients will receive $40,000 in funding for a four-year degree at Golden Door partner schools beginning in the Fall semester. The scholarship is open to students attending non-partner schools on a case-by-case basis.

The Science Ambassador Scholarship (2019)

Opens: Fall 2018

Closes: Applicants will be able to edit their submitted applications until December 11, 2018 at midnight CST.

Description: The scholarship is a full–tuition scholarship for a woman in science, technology, engineering, or math.
Funded by “Cards Against Humanity”, the scholarship awards up to four years of tuition to a woman seeking a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM). To apply, film a three–minute video of yourself explaining a topic in STEM you are passionate about. You must be a high school senior or an undergraduate college student to apply.

The Point Foundation

Opens: November 1, 2019

Closes: January 30, 2020

Description: The point foundation is the largest scholarship-granting (in higher ed) organization for LGBTQ+ students. This scholarship is for those involved in the LGBTQ+ community. Factors considered to receive the scholarship include: leadership, academic achievement, financial need, personal goals AND involvement in the LGBTQ+ community. The foundation also pays close attention to students who have lost the support of their families/communities due to their sexual orientation. Students are matched with mentors and attend leadership development programs. The applicants also pledge to give back to the LGBTQ+ community by completing a community service project each year.

ReconoceR Scholarship Fund

Closes: April, 2019 (CLOSED)

Description: The ReconoceR Scholarship Fund objective is to provide higher-education opportunities for young Mexican and Central American migrants living in the United States in vulnerable conditions and who want to pursue studies at the Universidad de Monterrey, through a scholarship award and support to facilitate their stay in Mexico.

Please read the “Process” page for personal documentation submission procedures.

Highlighted Graduate Fellowships and Programs

McNair Scholars Program Funding Guide/Opportunities

(Note that not every opportunity is available to undocumented students)

Description: The McNair Scholars Program serves first-gen, underrepresented students in order to help prepare them for doctoral studies. This organization seeks to increase the amount of graduate degrees for underrepresented students.

Ford Foundation Fellowship Program (2020)

Opens: September 2019

2020 Dissertation and Postdoctoral application deadline: December 10, 2019 at 5:00 PM (EST)

2020 Predoctoral application deadline: December 17, 2019 at 5:00 PM (EST)

Supplementary Materials deadline for submitted applications: January 7, 2020 at 5:00 PM (EST)

Description: Through its Fellowship Programs, the Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. Predoctoral, Dissertation, and Postdoctoral fellowships will be awarded in a national competition administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on behalf of the Ford Foundation.

Eligibility is open to those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, political asylees, and refugees.

UCLA’s Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship

Description: This four-year fellowship program, funded by the University of California Office of the President, the UCLA Graduate Division, and the home department, supports a limited number of students who are entering PhD programs and are interested in a career in college or university teaching and research. The fellowship currently provides a stipend of $25,000 plus tuition and, for the first year only, nonresident supplemental tuition if necessary. Professional degree supplemental tuition, if the awardee is enrolled in a professional degree program, is not covered. Fellows may not be employed during the first year of this fellowship. During the student’s fourth year, the Graduate Division provides a second year of support at the same funding level. The student’s department is obligated to provide two or more years of equivalent support. Applicants must be nominated by their department/school. Students pursuing MD, DDS, or JD degrees are not eligible for this program.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented students who qualify for nonresident supplemental tuition exemptions under AB 540 (eligibility for undocumented AB540 students is effective January 1, 2013). Individuals from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in graduate education are especially encouraged to participate in the program.

UCLA’s Graduate Opportunity Fellowship Program (GOFP)

Description: This one-year fellowship program provides recipients with a $20,000 stipend plus tuition (and nonresident supplemental tuition if necessary). Professional degree supplemental tuition, if the awardee is enrolled in a professional degree program, is not covered. Fellows may not be employed during the tenure of this fellowship. The program supports a limited number of entering students pursuing either terminal or professional master’s degrees. Students pursuing doctoral degrees (e.g., PhD, MD, DDS, etc.)  are not eligible for funding. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented students who qualify for nonresident supplemental tuition exemptions under AB 540 (eligibility for undocumented AB540 students is effective January 1, 2013). Individuals from cultural, racial, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are currently underrepresented in graduate education are especially encouraged to apply.

Additional Resources 

Dreamer’s Roadmap

Scholarship List

Description: Through the DREAMer’s Roadmap app, prospective college students who do not possess residency or other legal status in the U.S. can safely navigate the financial aid options available to them so they can further their education.

Immigrants Rising (formerly Educators for Fair Consideration)

Scholarship Fund


Description: Formerly known as “Educators for Fair Consideration” (E4FC) until 2018, Immigrants Rising is an organization and network built around the purpose of providing educational resources, career training, mentorship, professional development, and advocacy for undocumented immigrant communities.

The Immigrants Rising’s Scholarship Fund (previously called New American Scholars Fund) provides financial awards to low-income immigrant college and graduate students who live and/or attend school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Theyprovide scholarships of up to $7,000 to cover tuition and other expenses. Scholars are selected for their academic excellence, financial need, and community impact; they are also expected to maintain a minimum GPA (2.8 for college students and 3.0 for graduate students), and participate in ongoing E4FC programming, events, and activities throughout the year.

Immigrants Rising also offers various year-long fellowships fro undocumented young people in the Bay area and nationwide.

Geneseo Migrant Center

Scholarship List 

Description: The Geneseo Migrant Center administers a variety of scholarships to offer financial assistance to migrant students who want to further their education. Please note the annual deadline for each scholarship.

Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF)

MALDEF’s Scholarship Resource Guide for the 2018-2019 Academic Year (PDF)

Description: MALDEF is legal organization that advocates for the civil rights of Latinos in the United States. It publishes an extensive list of scholarships, including many that do not inquire about immigration status or require a valid social security number. Many scholarship awards can be processed with just the student’s name and address.

My Undocumented Life

Up-to-date information & resources for undocumented immigrants

Scholarships open to Undocumented Students (List)

Undergraduate Scholarships (List)

Graduate School Scholarships (List)

Description: My (Un)Documented Life offers a wide list of scholarships aimed to help undocumented students at different levels – in terms of demographic identity and education level. The resources can be organized by type and due date, and is a useful tool to find the scholarships that are right for you and your needs.

National Immigration Law Center (NILC)

Resources on Financial Aid & Scholarships for Students Regardless of Immigration Status (List)

Description: Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants.

The NILC publishes a comprehensive advocacy toolkit which includes a scholarship list, alongside information on state laws and tuition equity initiatives meant to make it easier for immigrants to go college.

Scholarship America

Scholarship List

Description: Founded in 1958, Scholarship America is now the nation’s largest nonprofit, private scholarship organization. Scholarship America works directly with students, parents, colleges, businesses and communities to help students fulfill their college dreams.

Scholarship America’s browser of scholarships allows you to search by state and and availability.

Scholarships A-Z

ScholarshipsA-Z’s Scholarship List

Description: Scholarships A-Z believes that all students can go to college, regardless of immigration status. Scholarships listed are organized by month and due date. Select the month you’re looking for on the top of the chart. Search for due dates, contact info, amounts, and requirements.

United We DREAM

U.W.D.’s The DREAM Educational Empowerment Program (DEEP)

Description: DEEP educates, connects, and empowers immigrant students, parents and educators to close the opportunity gap and engage in local efforts to improve educational equity. (Scholarship list starts on page 4)

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