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!
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!