By Katie Wornek – StepUp Outreach Officer and Paying For College Expert – Posted on September 22nd, 2017
The nature of America’s immigration laws and practices is very uncertain right now. This can leave many students and families feeling confused and nervous, especially when it comes to planning for college. If you need answers and guidance about the future of your education, here are a few things to keep in mind.
College Admission for Utah’s Undocumented Students
The first thing you need to know is that all students in Utah are allowed to apply for admission to all of Utah’s colleges and universities, regardless of their immigration status. If you plan on attending school outside of Utah, you will need to check with your college’s admissions office to see if their laws are different.
College Tuition for Utah’s Undocumented Students
Tuition, which is the money you pay to take classes, is one of the biggest costs associated with the college experience. At Utah’s public (state-run) colleges and universities, students who are Utah residents qualify for in-state tuition. This means they pay less in tuition than students who moved from a different state to attend school. The reason is simple – residents (or their families) have most likely paid taxes to the state of Utah to help its public colleges and universities operate, out-of-state students have not.
Utah law (House Bill 144) allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition if they:
- Have lived in Utah and attended a Utah high school for at least 3 years
- Sign a statement promising to resolve their undocumented immigration status
HB144 At Your School: Visit your college’s website or talk to your college’s financial aid office about obtaining in-state tuition under HB144.
Help may also be available if you want to attend college outside of Utah. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) is a group of 17 states and territories in the western United States (including Utah). WICHE formed a program called the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) to provide tuition reduction for out-of-state students. If you want to attend college in one of the 17 WICHE states, you may qualify for WUE assistance (depending on the immigration laws in that state). Contact the financial aid office at the college or university to ask:
- What important laws should I know about in your state regarding undocumented students and higher education?
- Does your school allow undocumented students to use WUE or qualify for in-state tuition after living in your state for some period of time?
Student Aid, the FAFSA, and Scholarships
National law states that undocumented students cannot qualify for federal student aid. This includes things like grants, work-study, and federal student loans. In Utah, undocumented students also cannot qualify for state grants or other forms of state-provided student aid.
However, other resources are available to help you pay for college. Utah law (Senate Bill 253) states that undocumented students can qualify for non-governmental student aid. This includes things like privately funded grants, fellowships, and scholarships. This is why it’s important for undocumented students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA analyzes your financial wellbeing, calculates how much help you might need paying for college, and assigns you a financial need index number (known as Expected Family Contribution or EFC). Most private scholarships are awarded based on merit (like good grades or athletic skill), but some scholarships also take financial need into consideration and, therefore, might require you to file the FAFSA and provide your EFC on your scholarship application. If you need assistance filling out the FAFSA, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-869-5701.
Preparing for college can be challenging. Preparing for college while facing complicated legal circumstances is even harder. The important thing to remember is that pursuing higher education is absolutely still a possibility and help is always available.
Katie is an Outreach Officer with UHEAA and StepUpUtah. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from the University of Utah and previously worked as a tutor with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college preparatory program. You can follow her for professional advice about preparing and paying for college on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (@StepUpKatie).