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Student Loans

Financial Aid for DACA Students

Updated Aug 04, 2023   |   12-min read

In 2012, former President Barack Obama signed an executive order titled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which opened up many opportunities for undocumented or “DREAMer” students.

Under DACA, individuals who meet certain conditions are allowed to stay in the U.S. and are offered a work permit, two years of protection from deportation, and the opportunity to attend school. These benefits can be extended as long as the recipient keeps a clean record.

There’s one shortcoming of the order, however. It doesn’t extend federal financial aid to DACA students.

Fortunately, there are other options available to help pay for school, including tuition discount programs, scholarships, and private student loans for DACA students. This guide offers a closer look at the different ways DACA students may be able to secure financial aid for education.

On this page:

Federal and state financial aid for DACA students

While federal aid is not available to DACA students, some states can help.

Minnesota, for instance, has a specific DREAM Act application that awards students a Minnesota State Grant worth almost $2,000 that doesn’t need to be paid back. The state also offers in-state tuition rates for DACA students.

In California, there are numerous ways for DACA students to get financial aid, including Dream Act grants and college-specific grants and scholarships. Dream Act funding is available to students with DACA status and in some instances, those who have lost DACA status or never applied may also qualify.

Talk to the financial aid office of your chosen school or your high school guidance counselor to see what state-based options you may have. Your state’s student aid commission can also be a helpful resource for finding DACA financial aid opportunities.

Some states may ask you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to see if you’re eligible for state aid. In that case, you will need a Social Security number to start the process. Consult the guidelines at for instructions on how to fill out the tax and residence information.

Private student loans for DACA students

If you’ve considered scholarships, grants, and state aid, then your next option would be private student loans. These loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Qualification often depends largely on the borrower’s credit history and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident may be required to cosign on the loan.

Here are some lenders that offer student loans for DACA students.


Multiple student loans for DACA students

  • Undergraduate and graduate student loans
  • You don’t need a cosigner to apply
  • Receive 1% cash back upon graduation
  • Prequalify without impacting your credit

Ascent was originally founded in 2015 with the goal of making it easier for eligible borrowers to obtain private student loans. Today, the company offers both cosigned and non-cosigned loans for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as loans for international and DACA students. There’s also a separate loan option to pay for coding bootcamps.

Cosigned loans are available to borrowers with a creditworthy cosigner, including DACA students. There are also non-cosigned student loans for DACA students who meet income and credit requirements. Eligible students can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, less any other financial aid received.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

Ascent offers student loans that can be used by DACA students as long as they add a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. It’s worth noting that cosigner release is not available for loans where the primary borrower is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

DACA students will also need to provide documentation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that indicates their DACA status doesn’t expire within six months of the end of the enrollment period for which they’re requesting loan funding. 

Ascent DACA student loan details

Here’s what you should know about Ascent’s DACA student loans:

TermsUndergraduate (cosigned)Undergraduate (no cosigner)Graduate (cosigned)
Variable APR1.78%9.37%14.37%11.56%11.79%11.12%1
Fixed APR4.81%12.79%17.38%13.54%14.93%14.54%1
Rate discount0.25% autopay0.25% – 1% autopay0.25% autopay
Loan amount$2,001 – $200,000$2,001 – $200,000$2,001 – $400,000
Term length5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years7, 10, 12, or 15 years
FeesLate payment feeLate payment feeLate payment fee
PrequalifyView RatesView RatesView Rates

College Ave

Requires a SSN and qualified cosigner

  • Borrowers must have a Social Security number and a qualified cosigner to be eligible
  • You choose your repayment terms
  • The application can be completed in as little as 3 minutes

College Ave is an innovative private student loan lender that was founded by former Sallie Mae executives. At College Ave, students can apply for undergraduate, graduate, and career loans. Loans are also available for parents who want to help their children pay for school.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

College Ave does not list any specific eligibility requirements for DACA students who are interested in private loans. A Social Security number and qualified cosigner are required for all borrowers so if you don’t have one, you won’t be eligible to get a loan through College Ave.

College Ave DACA student loan details

Here’s what you need to know about College Ave’s DACA student loan:

  • Variable rates: 1.19% – 11.98%
  • Fixed rates: 3.49% – 12.99%
  • Rate discount: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Loan amount: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Term length: 5, 8, 10, or 15 years
  • Fees: Late payment fee

Sallie Mae

Must have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosign

  • Reduced interest rate when you choose in-school repayment
  • No prepayment or origination fees

Sallie Mae is an established name in the student loan space. Founded in 1972 as a servicer of federal student loans, Sallie Mae is now one of the top private student loan originators in the U.S. Loans are available for undergraduate and graduate study as well as career training.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

Sallie Mae does offer DACA student loans, though the website doesn’t specify any set requirements needed to apply or be approved, other than a cosigner. The cosigner must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who meets minimum credit score and income guidelines.

Sallie Mae DACA student loan details

Here’s what you need to know about Sallie Mae’s DACA student loan:

  • Variable rates: 1.87% – 11.97%
  • Fixed rates: 3.75% – 12.85%
  • Rate discount: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Loan amount: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Term length: 5 – 15 years
  • Fees: Late payment fee


Must have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosign

  • Skip a payment once per year
  • 9-month grace period
  • Check your rate without impacting your credit

Earnest specializes in low-interest student loans for undergraduate and graduate study. The company was founded in 2013 as a merit-based lender, meaning credit history isn’t the only factor considered for approval.

Earnest offers some unique features for borrowers that other lenders don’t. For example, you can enjoy up to a nine-month grace period before you have to begin making full payments on your loans. You also have the option to skip a loan payment once per year.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

DACA students applying with a cosigner must ensure the cosigner meets certain requirements. Specifically, Earnest looks for cosigners who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, have a minimum credit score of 650, have never filed for bankruptcy, make a minimum of $35,000 annually, and live in a state in which Earnest operates.

Earnest DACA student loan details

Here’s what you need to know about Earnest’s DACA student loan:

  • Variable rates: 0.94%11.44%
  • Fixed rates: 3.24%12.78%
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Loan amount: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Term length: 5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
  • Fees: None


Must have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosign

  • Get a cash reward for good grades
  • No fees
  • Must be at least 16 years old

Perhaps best-known as an issuer of credit cards, Discover also offers other financial products, including bank accounts and private student loans. Loans are available for both undergraduate and graduate school, as well as professional career training. Parents can also take out private loans through Discover.

Loan benefits include interest-only repayment discounts and the chance to earn cash rewards for earning good grades. Customer service is U.S.-based in case you have questions or need help.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

To qualify for a student loan with Discover, DACA students and international students will need to have an eligible cosigner. That means a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who meets Discover’s minimum credit score and income requirements. Note that unlike other lenders, Discover does not offer cosigner release.

Discover DACA student loan details

Here’s what you need to know about Discover’s DACA student loan:

  • Variable rates: 1.79% – 11.24%
  • Fixed rates: 4.49% – 13.34%
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Loan amount: $1,000 – 100% of the school-ceritifed cost of attendance
  • Term length: 15 years
  • Fees: Late payment fee

MPOWER Financing

Available to students from 190+ countries

  • No cosigner, collateral, or credit history requirement
  • Repay your loan in any currency or location around the world
  • Only offers loans to students attending one of 350 approved schools

MPOWER Financing specializes in offering private student loans to international students who enroll in U.S. or Canadian schools. DACA recipients and refugees are also eligible to apply for loans.

Borrowers have to be admitted to an approved school to qualify for funding. Loan amounts range from $2,001 to $100,000 and can be used to fund virtually any degree program. Most importantly, there are no cosigner requirements for these loans.

Eligibility requirements for DACA students

DACA students may be eligible for loans through MPOWER Financing if they’re undergraduate or graduate students within two years of graduating or they’re beginning a 1- or 2-year program. There are no collateral, credit history, or cosigner requirements but you do have to be admitted to an approved school.

MPOWER DACA student loan details

Here’s what you need to know about MPOWER’s DACA student loan:

  • Variables rates: Not offered
  • Fixed rates: 15.01% for undergraduates and 13.98% for graduates 
  • Rate reduction: 0.25% automatic payment discount
  • Loan amount: $2,001 – $100,000
  • Term length: 10 years
  • Fees: 5% origination fee and late payment fee

>> Read More: Student loans for international students

What happens if I can’t get approved for a student loan?

Even if you find yourself unable to get a private student loan, there are additional options for DACA financial aid. Those include personal loans and scholarships in the private sector; some of them are even specifically geared for DACA students.

Personal loans

While they aren’t private student loans, you can also get a personal loan as a DACA student. A personal loan is a lump sum of money that you can borrow for virtually any need. The loan is paid back over time with interest according to a schedule set by the lender.

Certain lenders, such as Earnest, offer personal loans to non-residents; some even have DACA-specific loans. Personal loans can provide funding for school when you’ve exhausted other options, though the rates you pay might be higher compared to private student loans. Depending on the lender, you may also pay origination fees for the loan.

Repayment terms are usually shorter and loan limits may be less than what you could get with private student loans. Similar to DACA student loans, personal loans may require a cosigner for approval if you’re not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. And unlike student loans, cosigner release usually isn’t an option for personal loans.


Scholarships are a great option when exploring DACA financial aid as they typically do not have to be repaid. Here are some of the top scholarship options to consider for DACA recipients:

  • The Dreamers Scholarship, offered by the Immigrant Law Group, provides money to first-year college students who have qualified for DACA, have a GPA of 2.5 or better, and are applying to one of 12 partner schools that include colleges in New York City, Florida, Washington, D.C., Texas, or California. 
  • Golden Door offers scholarships for undocumented DACA students, as well as mentorship throughout college and beyond with internships and professional development.
  • TheDream.US National Scholarship Award will cover tuition and fees up to $14,500 for an associate degree and $29,000 for a bachelor’s degree. There are over 75 partner colleges across 15 states that participate in the program.

Are there programs for DACA students to attend college at a reduced rate?

The lack of DACA financial aid at the federal level has prompted a number of states to offer discounted tuition rates to undocumented students. Currently, 17 states have provisions that extend in-state tuition rates to DACA students. Those states include:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington

In Oklahoma and Rhode Island, in-state tuition rates can be granted to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions. Similar policies have been implemented at the University of Hawaii and the University of Michigan.

A handful of states, including California, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid. Other states are more stringent, however. In Alabama and South Carolina, for example, undocumented students are barred from enrolling at any public postsecondary institution.

If you’re unsure what options exist in your state, you can contact your school’s financial aid office for help. You can also connect with your state’s financial aid commission or department of higher education to discuss what kind of financial aid may be available for DACA students.

1 Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: Rates are effective as of 10/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner.  Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.