Financial Aid for Latinx Students to Attend School

ASO Staff Writers
Updated December 1, 2022
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Scholarships for Latino, First Generation, Migrant & Undocumented Students

Although Hispanic and Latino students are expected to comprise nearly half of all K-12 learners by the year 2040, this group still lags disproportionately behind other races and ethnicities when it comes to higher education, according to Pew Research. In a study of college completion by race and ethnicity, 15 percent of Hispanics aged 25 to 29 held a bachelor’s degree, with black (22 percent), white (41 percent) and Asian (63 percent) all taking higher spots in terms of attainment. In addition to offering wise words from an expert in Hispanic educational access, this guide exists to empower Hispanic students with information about what it takes to attend college, including details about scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities; information on undocumented student hurdles; resources for migrant students and their families; and details on how to navigate college as a first generation student.

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Schools & Programs Serving Hispanic Students

Hispanic-Serving Institutions

As designated by the U.S. Department of Education, the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program was developed to provide grant funding to institutions serving significant populations of Hispanic students at the college level. These grants are intended to support colleges and universities as they expand educational programs and help institutions better attain – and retain – students from this population. Also known as the Title V program, the Department of Education primarily looks to serve first-generation Hispanic learners who qualify as low income.

In order for a school to qualify for this type of federal funding, the institution must:

According to data released about the most recent funding cycle, the HSI program provided more than $100 million to U.S. institutions, meaning students who find a school that meets designation criteria will often see numerous programs devoted specifically to their needs.

College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program

Created in recent years to highlight the academic achievements of today’s Hispanic high school students, College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program invites learners of at least one-quarter Hispanic or Latino descent to take part. In order to qualify, learners must take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT)/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) in October of their junior year, meet the minimum required index score, and hold at least a 3.5 GPA by the mid-point of junior year.

College Board recognizes approximately 5,000 of the nearly quarter-million qualifying students each year by sending an official certificate and notifying the student’s high school. While no immediate funding is available via this program, learners can use the recognition on future scholarship applications to stand out from the competition.

HACU Southwest Lanzate

Finding the perfect school can take lots of searching, especially if a student decides they want to attend a Hispanic Serving Institution with other services and resources to better enhance their learning experience. In many cases, attending the right school may also mean living hundreds of miles away from home – an exciting prospect, but it also requires more funding. In answer to this dilemma, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities partnered with Southwest Airlines to provide the “Giving Flight to Your Success/Dándole Alas a Tu Éxito™” ¡Lánzate! Travel Award Program.

Now in its twelfth year, the program provides one to four roundtrip e-passes to students who are enrolled at an institution that’s at least 200 miles from their permanent residence. Once awarded, passes can be used for travel anywhere in the United States, save for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities

Formed more than two decades ago in 1986, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities represents nearly 500 colleges and universities committed to serving the higher education interests of Hispanic students in the United States. Although Hispanic Serving Institution is a designation provided by the government, HACU is the only national, private education group representing these types of colleges and universities.

After working with Congress to appropriate the first available grants to Hispanic Serving Institutions, HACU continues furthering its mission of both working with the government and educational institutions while also serving the needs of students. To that end, the association provides scholarships and grants for learners alongside a range of conferences and events aimed at educating members about opportunities for Hispanic students.

Scholarships & Resources for Undocumented Students

What defines an undocumented student?

As laid out by the federal government, an undocumented student is defined as a foreign national who:

Is there a federal law barring undocumented students from attending college?

In a word, no. While different colleges or universities can have their own policies, there is no federal or state law disallowing students from attending public or private institutions. Students need not fear that they will be at risk for deportation by talking to a college or university administrator about their options, but they do need to find a school that provides a supportive environment. While all public schools in states allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students will be welcoming, those in states without these mandates may require proof of citizenship or legal residence in order to admit a new student.

What is DACA?

Created in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a program allowing individuals who were brought to the United States as children the opportunity to defer any action on their immigration status for two years, with the option to renew. In order to qualify for this legal status, an individual must:

What is AB540?

First passed in California in 2001, AB540 allows students to receive financial aid from the CAL Grant via the State of California and The Dream Act Application. According to our expert Chad Bantner, “AB540 allows nonresident students who meet certain qualifications to pay in-state tuition.” He continued, “These may include undocumented students, students who are U.S. citizens but not California residents, and dependent students whose parents aren’t California residents.”

As the law currently stands, students are eligible if:

Financial Matters

The federal government disburses millions of dollars in financial aid each year through scholarships, grants, work-study programs and loans. Unfortunately for the undocumented learner, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid requires applicants to have a social security number – something no undocumented student is able to obtain. Although some states are less stringent on this rule when it comes to funding, the fact is that most learners in this population must rely on scholarships and grants from private foundations and nonprofit organizations. But just because funding isn’t available via the federal government doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Tuition benefits for immigrants currently exist in in 20 states, 16 of which enacted laws via their state legislatures and four of which have state university systems committed to serving all students, regardless of resident status. In the case of these states, undocumented students are able to receive in-state tuition for the duration of their time in higher education, provided they meet the state’s requirements, such as having attended a high school in the state for a certain amount of time. Students looking to learn more about the rules in each state can review a comprehensive guide provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to the latest information provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures, states currently allowing for in-state tuition include:

NebraskaNew MexicoNew YorkOklahoma*Oregon
Rhode Island*TennesseeTexasUtahWashington

*Denotes a state where funding is by state university system rather than legislative action.

If an undocumented student’s home state participates in a tuition benefit program, they should visit their state’s Department of Education website to learn more about options available to them. In the case of Illinois, for example, the Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling provides a whole section on financial aid and scholarships for undocumented learners.

Just because undocumented students can’t count on funds provided by filling out the FAFSA, that doesn’t mean support is not available to help them pay for college and avoid massive student debt.

Achievements Scholarship for Refugees and Immigrants

Sponsoring Organization:Triangle Community Foundation
Amount:Up to $16,000
Application Deadline:March 31
Awarded to Wake County, North Carolina residents who are first generation citizens, refugees, or immigrants and are planning to attend a college or university in North Carolina on a full-time basis.

Dream Fund Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Illinois Dream Fund
Application Deadline:January 17
Applicants who qualify under the Illinois Dream Act are allowed to apply for this scholarship, which is open to undocumented students who plan to study in Illinois or out of state.

Golden Door Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Golden Door Scholars
Application Deadline:Varies
Provided to students who have DACA or DPS, with preference given to students in states where colleges charge out-of-state tuition for undocumented learners.

National Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:The DREAM
Amount:Up to $25,000
Application Deadline:March 8
Awarded to high school students or others not currently enrolled in college but who hope to attend. Must be eligible for in-state tuition at chosen college.

Opportunity Scholarship for Locked-Out Dreamers

Sponsoring Organization:The Dream
Amount:Up to $80,000
Application Deadline:February 19, 2017
Available to students who live in “locked-out” states that don’t allow undocumented students to take advantage of in-state tuition rates.

Scholarships & Resources for Migrant Students

Students are considered to be migrants when their parents work in agricultural and fishing industries that force them to move frequently to find work where crops are currently being harvested. Data from the U.S. Department of Education estimates nearly half a million preschool through 12th grade migrant children currently live in America, with the most on the West Coast and in Texas and Florida. While Hispanic children aren’t the only ethnicity comprising migrant students, an estimate cited by the Migrant Education Program found nearly 90 percent are of Latino origin.

Aside from all the challenges that come with learning in the U.S. school system, including English as a Foreign Language, migrant children must also contend with moving frequently, living in rural areas and being uprooted from teachers who know their needs. Many migrant children may also miss class during the school year in order to work alongside their parents in the fields to provide for family needs.

Although children of migrant workers currently have one of the highest dropout rates in the nation, it doesn’t have to remain the status quo. In an effort to address the inequality, numerous scholarships, resources, and services are now available to exclusively serve this population.

Scholarships for Students in Migrant Families

College Assistance Migrant Program

Sponsoring Organization:U.S. Department of Education
This award, made to non-profit colleges and universities or nonprofit organizations, exists to help students who are migrants during their first year of college. While not available directly to students, check with prospective schools to see if this type of grant is available. Michigan State University is one example.

Farm Worker Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Application Deadline:April 15
Awarded to student farm-workers or children of farm workers who will be studying full-time at an accredited college or university.

Migrant Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Student Action with Farmworkers
Amount:Up to $1,500
Application Deadline:November 15 / February 19
Available to an undergraduate learner from a farm-working family who is attending North Carolina State University.

Migrant Scholarships

Sponsoring Organization:Geneseo Migrant Center
Eleven different scholarships specific to migrant students are administered by this group, making it easier for students of varied backgrounds and interests to find a suitable application.

Services & Resources for Migrant Students

First Generation College Students

A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics found that approximately 30 percent of all incoming freshman are the first in their family to attend college, and that’s overwhelmingly true for students from Hispanic families. While it’s an exciting time for students and parents alike, it can also be a time of uncertainty. From filling out applications and securing funding to signing up for classes and writing papers, first-generation students often find their first year may feel like an uphill battle to get up to speed with all that college entails. Did you know?

A high school diploma or less is the highest level of education achieved by half of all Latino students’ parents.

Scholarships for First Generation Students Attending College

Ann Biggs/Thelma Salazar Scholarship for First Generation Immigrant Children

Sponsoring Organization:University of Texas – San Antonio
Amount:Up to $8,000
Application Deadline:With Application
This scholarship is made available to students who have at least one parent who immigrated to the U.S., with preference given to those from Mexico or Central America.

HACI Abroad Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:IES Abroad
Amount:Up to $5,000
Application Deadline:Varies
Covers the cost of summer, semester, or academic years abroad via IES Abroad programs, with priority given to first-generation college students.

Hispanic Scholarship Council Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Hispanic Scholarship Council
Application Deadline:With Application
Awarded to Incoming UC San Diego students who are the first in their family to attend college and can show financial need.

The Alfred Hugo Radke and Gerda Else Radke Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Averett University
Application Deadline:With Application
Provided to international or first generation students who demonstrate financial need and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

Ventures Scholarship

Sponsoring Organization:Ventures Scholars Program
Application Deadline:Varies
Students who are traditionally underrepresented and first-generation who plan to attend college are qualified to apply for this scholarship.

From the Expert

Chad Bantner is the director of the Life Prep, an educational and leadership program that he developed for Academia Avance Charter School in Los Angeles, CA. The capstone class is The Work Educational Experience, where college ready seniors participate in a professional internship, which is in alignment with their personal mission statement. The Life Prep Program also focuses on college bridge, career readiness, project management, and technology through 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Bantner is a graduate of The Juilliard School, and has worked professionally with The Martha Graham Dance Company, Celine Dion, and Blue Man Group, to name a few.

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