Advanced education options for DACA students

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offers a limited immigration benefit to certain undocumented students who entered the U.S. as young children. Students who receive DACA are entitled to a renewable two-year work authorization, meaning they will be able to put their education to work. But what options do DACA students have for pursuing advanced education?

It is important to remember that DACA does not give legal immigration status to a student. The DACA program does not give permanent residency status, or even a temporary lawful status. Instead, it is only a promise from the government that the student will be safe from deportation for a renewable two-year window. The student also qualifies for a 2-year work authorization and Social Security Number. At least for now, DACA students are essentially in the same situation as undocumented students when it comes to education options.

Enrollment and tuition. In Washington State, undocumented students are entitled to pay in-state tuition if they have lived in the state for three or more years. This rule comes from a law referred to as “HB 1079” which was passed in 2003. Admissions offices use the term “HB 1079 students” when referring to students eligible under this law. Students who seek in-state tuition under this law are required to sign an affidavit (a legal document) promising that they have lived in Washington State for the required three years. Because DACA students are still in unlawful immigration status, they are eligible to seek in-state tuition under HB 1079. For more information about HB 1079 visit here.

Federal student loans. Undocumented students cannot receive federal student loans. These are loans a student may receive after filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Currently DACA students are also ineligible to receive federal student aid.

Scholarships. A number of private scholarships are available to students regardless of lawful immigration status. Each scholarship provider gets to decide for itself whether to make the scholarship available to undocumented students. Some scholarship providers simply may not have considered whether to offer their scholarship to undocumented students. Even so, many scholarship applications ask for a Social Security Number. If you are a good candidate for a scholarship, but don’t yet have your Social Security Number, you should consider contacting the scholarship provider. You can ask to the provider whether you may apply without providing a Social Security Number.

For Latino/a students in Washington, an excellent list is complied by Campana Quetsal here. Also, consider contacting the financial aid department of the institution you plan to attend. Colleges and universities in Washington State may be able to advise you about options available for undocumented students.

Get involved. Many groups are involved in advocacy to make advanced education more accessible to undocumented students. Make sure your education institution knows about the Beyond HB 1079 conference, which will explore education advocacy for undocumented students.


Greg is the principal attorney at Puget Sound Legal where he represents families in the U.S. immigration system. His firm uses technology and innovation to deliver excellent legal services efficiently and affordably. Greg serves as secretary for the Washington Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and is the chair-elect of the Solo & Small Practice Section of the Washington State Bar Association.