FAFSA vs. Dream Act: What’s the Difference?
Money is one of the biggest deciding factors for incoming college students. Depending on how much aid students are able to receive, it then shifts what college they attend, how many semesters they will attend, how much they will loan, etc. Immigrant Rising’s FAFSA vs Dream Act info sheet gives a quick overview of the differences between FAFSA and the Dream Act as to what they are, who can apply, and the requirements for each. Below is some FAQ’s that can help you decide which aid to apply for!
Who is eligible?
- Legal Permanent Residents
- Eligible Non- Citizens (per FAFSA)
- T visa holders
DREAM Act AB 540/ SB 68 Eligible Students Who Are:
- Undocumented individuals;
- DACAmented individuals; and U visa holders
- TPS Protected Status
Who is NOT eligible?
- DACAmented students
- Undocumented individuals
- Any visa holder (except U)
- Legal Permanent Residents
- Eligible Non-Citizens (per FAFSA)
Requirements for Financial Aid to be Awarded:
- Department of Homeland Security and SocialSecurity Administration crosscheck student name, social security number, and birthdate to verify that all FAFSA eligibility requirements are met;
- All other eligibility for federal and state aid is met
- School verifies student meets AB 540/ SB 68
- Some schools may require a student’s AB 540/ SB 68 status to be approved prior to awarding state financial aid
- All other eligibility state aid is met
Requirements for Financial Aid to Be Released to Pay Outstanding Balances:
- Admission into an approved degree or certificate degree
- Minimum Unit requirements
- Satisfactory Academic Progress
Approval as AB 540/ SB 68 student and:
- Admission into an approved degree or
- Minimum Unit requirements
- Satisfactory Academic Progress
For more information visit FAFSA vs CA Dream Act – Apply to the Correct Financial Aid in CA!
Applying for college can be difficult when you don’t know where to even begin. It is even harder when you might not be eligible for all the resources offered to first-generation college students due to citizenship status. However, Immigrant Rising has gathered a quick guide for undocumented students to make applying to college easier! In this quick guide, you get information about AB-540/SB-68: In-State Tuition & Residency Requirements, the California Dream Act ( General Info, Ideal Timeline, Step and Tools), and Scholarships and other resources.
AB 540/SB 68: In-State Tuition & Residency Requirements:
In this section of the quick guide, you get detailed information about in-state tuition. This includes information like:
- Differences between CA In-State Tuition (AB 540/AB 2000/SB 68), CA Dream Act, and DACA,
- Learn how in-state tuition eligibility has expanded to include community colleges (credit/noncredit) & adult schools in CA,
- Learn how California residency and AB 540/SB 68 affect the amount of tuition that you pay at CA public colleges & universities.
California Dream Act and State-Based Financial Aid:
In this section, this quick guide offers easy access to information about the California Dream Act and other state-based aid offered to undocumented students. This information includes:
- What kinds of financial aid and institutional scholarships you can apply for through the CA Dream Act
- Understand the four phases required to successfully complete the California Dream Act application and receive the maximum amount of aid for which you are eligible
- Checklists and Timeline for the CA Dream Act and Cal Grant
Scholarships and Other Resources:
Apart from the Dream Act and Cal Grant, undocumented students are eligible to other aid through scholarships. The guide offers:
- Scholarship Search Chart
- Scholarship Writing Support
- Undocuhustle Learning Hub
- CCOP’s CA Undocumented Student Resource Map
To access these resources and more you can visit QUICK GUIDE TO COLLEGE ACCESS FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS IN CALIFORNIA. You can also visit IMMIGRANTS RISING – TRANSFORMING LIVES THROUGH EDUCATION to access even more resources involving college, immigration, mental health etc.! College is possible for everyone with the right resources.
After submitting the CA Dream Act Application, you may be asked to verify the information you provided about your income. Don’t worry, you did not do anything wrong if you are selected; a percentage of all applicants are required to verify income as general practice. If you happen to be selected, follow the steps below!
- Know if you have you have to verify your income
Not all CA Dream Act applicants are required to verify their income. You will know if you must verify your income via email or schools’ online portals. If you do not receive any notification about verifying income, then you do not need to take additional steps at the moment.
2. Know if you are Dependent or Independent Student
You are Dependent if you are all of the following:
- under 24 years old or born after 1/1/98,
- not legally married (single),
- have no children or other dependents,
- and are pursuing an undergraduate degree.
If you are Dependent then you MUST provide information on BOTH your income and your parents’ income. Even if you do not live with your parents or receive their financial support, you must provide their information. Some exceptions on this may apply depending on school.
You are Independent if you are at least one of the following:
- over 24 years old or born before 1/1/98,
- legally married,
- have children or other dependents for whom you provide 50% of their support,
- a veteran or active duty,
- an orphan or ward of the court,
- at risk of homelessness,
- have a special circumstance,
- or pursuing a graduate degree.
If you are Independent, then you will only provide income information about yourself.
3. Know if you and/or your parents are Tax Filers
If you and/or your parents file taxes, be prepared to obtain the 2019 tax return transcript (note: this is different from the tax account transcript). You may request the tax return transcript from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for free online or through the phone. The person requesting the transcript must be the one who signed the taxes; someone else is not allowed.
If you and/or your parents do not file taxes, prepare the following information/documents:
- all 2019 household income earned,
- financial assistance or benefits (if received),
- a copy of W-2 form(s).
Be aware that if you or your parents earned over the IRS income filing limits, you may be required to file taxes in order to receive a financial aid award.
If you and/or your parents do not file taxes because of cash payment and do not have a W-2 form, you must explain the circumstances in the school verification worksheet. You may be required to include proof of non-filing from the IRS.
4. Fill our the Income Verification Worksheet
After you have determined where you stand with dependent/independent status and tax filing status, you will fill out the Income Verification Worksheet. A standard worksheet asks about/for the following:
- Household Size: The rules of the CA Dream Application define households as you (the student); the biological or adoptive parents; siblings under the age of 24 in most cases; and/or other dependents for whom the parents are financially responsible (such as an elderly or disabled person). Additional family members or individuals that live within the home, but do not meet these requirements should not be included in the household.
- Marital Status: Indicate whether the parent or you are single, married, separated or divorced, or widowed. Parents who are living together, but are not married should choose that option.
- Tax Filing Status: Indicate whether you and/or parent or spouse is a tax filer or a non-tax filer.
- Financial Aid Received: List the amount of grants or scholarships you received during 2020 and the school(s) attended.
- Child Support Paid: List the amount of any child support paid in 2020, including the child’s name, the name of the person who paid child support, and the name of the person to whom it was paid.
- SNAP Benefits Received: Indicate whether you and/or your parents received SNAP benefits in 2020 or 2021. Documentation from the agency that issued SNAP benefits may be required upon request.
- Certification and Signature: By signing the verification worksheet, you and/or your parent certify that all the information is true. Signing also authorizes the Financial Aid Office to update the student’s California Dream Application per CSAC guidelines and the information provided.
- Additional Documentation: An individual college or university has the right to ask for additional documentation regarding household size or income earned if it is necessary to gain an adequate understanding of how household expenses were met for 2020.
- Multiple Schools: If you listed more than one school on the CA Dream Application, you will be required to complete income verification at each school individually.
It is natural to feel overwhelmed by this process! Remember that this is standard procedure for a certain percentage of students who apply for the Dream Act. Do not be discouraged. We, and many others, are here to support you through the process!
On June 15, 2012, an executive order created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for immigrant youth. Individuals who meet a specific eligibility may apply to receive work authorization and protection from removal action. The program is subject to renewal every two years.
Updates On Renewals
- Renewals may now be filed online
- First-time applications are not accepted
- Advance parole is available
**for more information visit InformedImmigrant.com & USCIS.GOV *
July 6, 2022 Hearing
- The DACA case of Texas v. The United States is still pending a final decision in a federal court in the Southern District of Texas. Arguments were heard on the case for the first time on July 6th. Legal experts believe this case will make its way to the Supreme Court. A long legal battle is still ahead for DACA!
How Can Allies Help?
DACA and Higher Ed
- FACT: In CA you don’t need DACA to go to college or receive financial aid! Undocumented students can pursue a higher-ed with or without DACA in CA.
- Instagram Resource: @prepareweb
NORTHRIDGE, CA- The California Dream Act was enacted in July 2011. Its purpose is to serve the undocumented community. It is meant to aid those ineligible for the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA). Thanks to the Dream Act, undocumented students no longer have to put higher education in limbo because of financial restraints. The application process could be a difficult journey but with the right resources and guidance, undocumented students can successfully apply to their dream school.
When applying to college there are various outlets of financial assistance one can seek. For undocumented students, however, the search for financial aid looks a little bit different. Eligibility and financial requirements when filling out the Dream Act can be verified through the Immigrants Rising website.
The application for the Dream Act can be found on the CADAA website. Changes to the application are made every year so it is important to actively keep up with the most recent modifications. Among those changes are an updated user-friendly website and mobile look. The new application takes after FAFSA’s simplistic look Student’s can refer to — for updates on the application on @CAstudentaid.
Laws supporting the undocumented community include AB540, SB68. AB540 is a California law enacted in 2001 intended to allow eligible students to pay in-state tuition at community colleges, California State Universities (CSU’s), and Universities of California (UC’s).
SB 68 is an expansion of AB540. SB68 allows students to count their years in a community college or adult school and have them count towards their eligibility requirements for AB540. Requirements can be verified through the Immigrants Rising Quick Guide to SB68.
There are various financial aid resources available to the undocumented community in addition to the Dream Act like scholarships and grants! California students can turn to Cal Grants for extra financial aid. Eligible students can apply for a Cal Grant through the CA Dream Act. For more details visit Immigrants Rising checklist for the CA Dream Act and Cal Grant.
To keep up with scholarships, grants and deadlines follow our @gotocollege Instagram page to stay connected!
The creation of the California Dream Loan was first introduced by then-Senator Lara back in 2014. Then in 2018, Assemblymember Ian Calderon introduced AB1895 and it was signed by the California governor. AB1895 provided repayment programs based on someone’s income for the loan. The latest piece of legislation signed by Governor Newson was SB354 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo which expanded the Dream Loan program to graduate students.
How to apply and know you if are eligible
Students are eligible if they are enrolled at a CSU or a UC where the loan is currently being provided and they are enrolled as an AB540 student. Students may also be eligible if they file the California act application with the financial aid office and show that they are in financial need. Students need to keep in mind that the loan is provided on a main campus basis so they have to make sure to talk to their campus because it is not administered by anyone else.
Important details about California Dream Loans
- The interest rate that you agree upon in your contract can not change, it is a fixed interest rate and the interest rates are the same as federal student loans.
- Just like federal student loans, you have a six-month grace period before you have to pay it back.
- There is an income-based payment program that schools have come up with. This is based on what you are making as someone who has entered their career and are you eligible to repay this program.
To learn more about CA Dream Loans click the video below!
You have applied for FAFSA, the CA DREAM ACT, scholarships, so now what comes next? Budgeting! Budgeting your aid is a great way to assure all your needs are met while also giving you the ability to plan around how much money you will receive/ have left. Immigrant Rising has conducted a budgeting worksheet to make it easier for you!
On this worksheet, you lay out your cost of attendance, your scholarship money, your CA grant money, and any other methods of income. By laying out your aid, you are able to see which college is the BEST for you by the aid they give you as well as allowing you to petition for even more aid. To access this worksheet and more resources for undocumented students follow the links below!
Resources – IMMIGRANTS RISING
Undocumented Student Budget Worksheet
Simply put, the AB 540/AB 2000/SB 68 Affidavit allows undocumented students to be charged in-state tuition, rather than out-of-state tuition. Read more about the Affidavit below!
Should I fill out the Affidavit?
If you are a new incoming college student who is:
- a Childhood Arrivals (DACA) grantee,
- a student with T or U nonimmigrant status,
- under Temporary Protected Status (TPS),
- a Lawful Permanent Resident, OR
- classified as any kind of nonresident
You meet the eligibility criteria for AB 540, AB 2000, or SB 68, and should fill out the Affidavit.
Note: Students who have been admitted to the U.S. on a temporary nonimmigrant visa (with the exception of T & U Visas holders) are not eligible to apply for the nonresident tuition exemption.
Why should I fill out an affidavit?
For two main reasons:
- If you are not classified as a state resident, you will be charged non-resident fees until your affidavit and necessary documentation are submitted and processed at the school you plan to attend.
- Additionally, you will not be eligible to receive your California Dream Act financial aid until your affidavit is processed.
What documentation do I have to submit?
There are two types of documentation you may be required to submit with the affidavit:
- An official copy of your transcripts from:
- a CA High School or the equivalent (GED),
- a California Community College (credit or non-credit),
- an Adult School, OR
- a combination of these transcripts.
- Proof that you have or will have graduated with:
- a high school diploma or the equivalent (GED or CHSPE),
- an Associate’s Degree from a California Community College, OR
- proof that you will have completed the minimum requirements for transfer to a CSU or UC.
Note: If you have three years of high school coursework, and attended a combination of three years at CA elementary & secondary schools, you may also be required to submit your transcripts from these schools.
When should I submit my affidavit?
You should submit your affidavit prior to the deadline listed at your school. This is usually sometime after you receive your acceptance letter and prior to your new student orientation. Continuing students should not be required to submit a new affidavit, once it’s been approved unless they have not attended classes for a full year and need to reapply to the school.
Where should I submit my affidavit?
You must submit your affidavit to the Admissions or Registrar’s Office at the college or university you plan to attend. Once you submit it, you should follow-up within the next 2 weeks to BE SURE that the College or University received all the necessary paperwork.
How do I complete the Affidavit?
Fill out your full name, student ID number, address, email, and schools attended, including dates and length of time. You will also be required to attest that you meet the eligibility criteria. You must check the immigration box that pertains to you and sign the form.
- T or U non-immigrant or refugee status students should consult with their school before completing the affidavit. AB 1899 allows individuals who have been granted T or U status to be considered for in-state tuition eligibility without waiting a year if they meet the criteria described above. Under AB 343, refugees, T and U visa holders may also be eligible to pay in-state rates immediately, under another exception for these students, if they settled originally in California.
- Students who do NOT have a current nonimmigrant status, including students who are undocumented, DACA recipients, have TPS, Lawful Permanent Residents, and other lawfully residing immigrants should check the SECOND box.
Check out these sites to see how the Affidavit looks like for a community college, a CSU, and a UC.
For more information about submitting an affidavit go here: Submitting the AB 540/AB 2000/SB 68 Affidavit
College application season is here and that means it is also time to apply for financial aid! When you are applying for financial aid, you will either apply for FAFSA or the California Dream Act. If you are an undocumented student, DREAMer, or DACAmented you will most likely apply for state and institutional financial aid using the CA Dream Act. Keep reading to find out all the ins and outs of the CA Dream Act!
Background and Eligibility
Q1. What is the California Dream Act?
The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (U.S. Citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under AB 540 to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships funded through public universities, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants. In addition, the California Dream Act, allows eligible students to pay in-state tuition at any public college in California.
Q2. Who can apply for the California Dream Act?
Students who live in California and meet the eligibility requirements for a non-resident exemption, as well as students who have a U Visa or TPS status, can use the California Dream Act application (CADAA). Similarly, students without Social Security Numbers or students who have lost DACA status (or never applied for DACA), may still be eligible.
Q3. What is the difference between the FAFSA and the California Dream Act Application?
Students should only complete one of the applications (not both), according to the citizenship requirements below:
- You are eligible to complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov if you are a:
- U.S Citizen
- Permanent Resident
- Eligible non-citizen
- T Visa holder
- You are eligible to complete the CADAA at https://dream.csac.ca.gov/ if you are:
- Have a valid or expired DACA
- U Visa holders
- Have Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540
Note: If you have further questions, including how to ensure you are completing the correct financial aid application, you can visit the Immigrants Rising website and review the document titled FAFSA VS CA Dream Act: Apply to the Correct Financial Aid
Q4. What are the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540?
Students must meet all four (4) requirements to be eligible:
- Time and coursework requirements
- High school attendance in California for three or more years, OR
- Attainment of credits earned in California from a California high school equivalent to three or more years of full-time high school coursework and a total of three or more years of attendance in California elementary schools, California secondary schools, or a combination of those schools. OR
- Attainment of credits earned at a California adult school, OR
- Credits earned at a California Community College, OR
- A combination of the schools listed above
Use Immigrants Rising’s California In-State Tuition Tool for the easiest way to determine whether you have the attendance and degree requirements in order to qualify for in-state tuition in California.
- Degree or unit requirements (completion of either of the following):
- Graduation from a California high school or the equivalent (GED, HiSET, TASC) •
- Attainment of an Associate degree from a California Community College
- Fulfillment of the minimum transfer requirements from a California Community College to a UC or CSU campus
- Register or enroll in an accredited and qualifying California college or university
For a list of Cal Grant eligible schools, please visit this page
- Submit a signed “Non-Resident Exemption” Request
Some schools will refer to this document as an “AB 540 affidavit.” This form states that you meet all the requirements to qualify for a non-resident exemption under AB 540 and, if you are undocumented, that you are in the process of legalizing your immigration status (or will do so as soon as you are eligible).
Please contact the Registrar’s Office or the Admissions and Records office at your college for information on how to complete your non-resident exemption form and to determine if supporting documentation is needed. You should complete this form upon accepting an offer to attend a college in California and at least one semester or quarter before you are scheduled to start classes.
Q5. What should I do if I’ve already submitted a FAFSA before learning that I should have submitted a CADAA?
You must first complete the CADAA and then complete the “Application Conversion Form G-55” which can be obtained at: https://www.csac.ca.gov/post/application-conversion-form Please make a copy of this form for your records, send the original form (along with documentation to prove your identification) to the Commission and contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend to inform them of this error.
Q6. Do I need to register for the U.S. Selective Service to receive financial aid?
Males who are between the age of 18 and 25 years old, even undocumented individuals, must register for the selective service so your CA Dream Act aid is not put on hold. Register early and show proof of registration to your school to ensure you receive state financial aid.
Find more information about registering for the U.S. Selective service here.
Q7. What if I do not qualify for FAFSA nor the CA Dream Act?
- If you do not meet school attendance criteria you may be able to attend high school for an additional year to reach AB 540 eligibility. This is up to each school and you should talk with your counselor to evaluate your situation.
- Attend a community college and have it count toward future eligibility, but you will not be eligible for state aid first year at community college.
- Find other sources of financial aid such as outside scholarships and institutional funds depending on the college, some colleges and universities offer full rides to undocumented students.
*For a full copy of the California Dream Act FAQs for Students and Parents please go to this link: CA Dream Act FAQ
For a checklist of applying for the CA Dream Act go here:
CA Dream Act and Cal Grant Checklist
For a complete overview of the CA Dream Act go here: CA Dream Act Overview
RESOURCES FOR UNDOCUMENTED/DREAMER STUDENTS FILLING OUT THE CALIFORNIA DREAM ACT APPLICATION: RESOURCES FOR CALIFORNIA DREAM ACT APPLICATION
Sources: CSAC, Immigrants Rising, and uAspire