How can undocumented students study at a NY college or university?

Since New York passed the Jose Peralta DREAM Act in 2019, which entitles immigrant students to receive federally administered financial aid from which they were previously excluded, more colleges and organizations have opened their doors to allow undocumented students access to scholarships.

Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit

NYC High School graduates at a 2019 ceremony in Brooklyn.

This article originally appeared in Spanish. Translated by Daniel Parra.
Lea la version en español aquí.

About 100,000 undocumented students will have graduated from US high schools in 2022, and the same number of students will graduate in the next three years, according to the organization

It’s hard to know for sure, but an estimated 4,500 undocumented students graduated from high schools across New York state in 2019 alone. These estimates were used to provide a sense of the impact of New York State’s Jose Peralta DREAM Act, which was passed in the same year that eligible immigrant students may qualify for state tuition at SUNY and CUNY institutions, as well as access to government-administered financial aid and scholarships, which may also be applied at the expense of some participating private colleges within the state.

The bill is named after the late Senator Jose Peralta, the first Dominican-American elected to the New York Senate and who campaigned for years to legislate. Supporters had been pushing for the law since 2013, but it had failed to get through the formerly Republican-controlled Senate.

Prior to its passage, undocumented students had no access to state or local assistance, and private scholarships were few. In recent years, both colleges and organizations have opened their doors to allow more students to access scholarships.

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City Limits created this guide to provide an overview of how undocumented students in New York can afford to study at a state college or university.

What are the requirements to apply to a private, public, or community college in New York?

Students must have passed the General Educational Development Test, or GED, which is a high school equivalent diploma, or earned a high school diploma in the United States.

Immigrant advocates and university officials in New York emphasize that newly arrived immigrants who want to go to college should consider whether to prepare for the GED test or, even if they have already graduated in their home countries, the last two years of the Studying in high school to qualify for certain grants, including grants under the New York DREAM Act (more below).

Students should indicate the study program and the desired degree. There are different types of degrees in the United States (for example, bachelor’s degrees awarded by four-year colleges or associate’s degrees awarded by community colleges), so students with the type of degree they aspire to be familiar.

Getting good grades in high school is always helpful, both when applying to colleges and when applying for scholarships.

How to qualify for help under the New York State DREAM Act

Undocumented students or students with DACA, U visa, T visa or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are eligible to apply.

There are two important requirements to consider: A student must have attended and graduated from a high school in New York State for at least two years. In addition, a student must apply to a college undergraduate program within five years of graduating from high school.

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The program is also open to those applying to a graduate program in New York, who can apply up to 10 years after graduating from high school.

The application is online here and there are step-by-step instructions on how to apply in multiple languages ​​including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean and Bengali. The form asks if the applicant is a citizen or an immigrant. The immigration status provided in New York State’s DREAM Act application is confidential, is not shared with the federal government, and is not otherwise used by immigration authorities for enforcement purposes.

Remember there are two steps to claiming NY DREAM Act benefits. The first step is to submit the completed application and be accepted by Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), the student finance agency.

The second step is to complete an application for New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a tuition grant to accredited New York State schools. Once the application is approved (congratulations), the school you applied to will be notified.

Note that there are conditions for maintaining the scholarship, e.g. B. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0.

What other scholarships are there for undocumented students to attend college?

Scholarships for students, regardless of their immigration status, are often available within the colleges themselves and even within specific departments. Because of this, staff at several universities advised students to look for and ask about additional scholarships to apply for before, during, and after admission to college.

“You really have to pull yourself together,” said Angy Rivera, co-executive director of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, of the college funding process.

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Several organizations have compiled lists of scholarships open to undocumented students: The Mexican-American Legal Protection and Education Fund (MALDEF) has one such list, Make The Road NY has another, as does United We Dream. The list most frequently referred to by advocates and university staff was the compilation by Immigrants Rising. More options can be found here.

Scholarships are also available through organizations such as the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), the Brandon Hendricks Scholarship for Bronx Residents, or the Dream US Scholarship.

Other things to consider when choosing a course

Undocumented students should carefully consider whether their chosen major requires special licensing, as some careers do.

For additional advice on the application process, experts recommend reaching out to the advisor at your high school first, as well as the advisor at your desired college program or university.

Organizations such as the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) host meetups for students and visits to college campuses. The next meeting is scheduled for March 27 at Brooklyn College (details here). They also have a 1-year program for undocumented high school seniors in New York City.

In 2022, the City University of New York, or CUNY as it is commonly known, established a senior leadership role responsible for coordinating undocumented student and immigrant support services for the entire CUNY system. In addition, CUNY has offices dedicated to serving immigrant students, called Immigrant Student Success Centers, with two locations: one at John Jay College (headed by Denise Vivar) and one at Brooklyn College (headed by Jesus Perez).