Immigration Status and Educational Access

IMMIGRATION STATUS AND EDUCATIONAL ACCESS

Immigration status and access to higher education can be a serious issue for immigrants, especially individuals who came to the United States as children. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that transgender and gender nonconforming youth are disproportionately more likely to immigrate to the U.S. without the presence of an adult in order to escape the pervasive violence and discrimination they faced in their home countries. However, documented and undocumented students alike also face significant financial barriers and other challenges in pursing their education once they arrive in the United States, oftentimes due to lack of family support and restrictions on their ability to obtain financial aid and in-state tuition.

However, in California, the passage of the Dream Act of 2011 makes undocumented and documented students in California eligible for in-state tuition (usually much lower than tuition for international students and students from other states) and private scholarships.1 Starting April 2, 2012 (application dates: January 1 – March 2), they may also be able to access educational funding in the form of University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) grants, California Community College Board of Governor’s fee waiver, Cal Grants, and other state-administered financial aid by submitting a Dream Act Application to the state student aid commission.2

As of June 2013, no version of the Dream Act has yet passed at the federal level. However, sixteen states currently allow undocumented students to attain in-state tuition at public universities. Only three of these states – California, Texas, and New Mexico – allow undocumented students to access state-funded financial aid.3


  1. California Dream Act of 2011 FAQ’s, California Student Aid Commission, http://www.csac.ca.gov/pubs/forms/grnt_frm/cal_grant_dream_act_faqs.pdf, Last visited May 28, 2014. 

  2. California Dream Act Application, California Student Aid Commission, https://dream.csac.ca.gov/, Last visited May 28, 2014. 

  3. Undocumented Student Tuition: State Action, National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/educ/undocumented-student-tuition-state-action.aspx, Last visited May 28, 2014.