How to Pay for College: Best Advice for Latinx Students

by | Jul 8, 2021 | Paying for College, Planning for College

Wondering what your financial aid options are as a Latinx student? Want to know how to pay for college without breaking the bank? The good news is, you can. 

As a Latinx student, there’s scholarships, grants, and resources available to help. The most important being free money. Because, who doesn’t want access to money that doesn’t have to be repaid? 

Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to find money that helps cover tuition, books, and other fees. That’s why, in today’s post, I’m going to show you exactly how to:

  • Find financial aid to help reduce the burden of student loan debt
  • Gain access to scholarships and grants available to Latino Americans
  • Understand FAFSA and your student loans options
  • Save money on college even while college costs continue to rise

Ready to dive in? By the end, you’ll know the best ways to find and plan your college finances.

Financial Aid Options for Latinx Students

Colleges across the country are actively promoting diversity. They know that while the Hispanic population outnumbers other minorities, college applications lag far behind.

That’s why financial aid specific to Latino, Hispanic, and Latinx students is crucial to increasing those numbers. But what if you’re:

  • Undocumented
  • DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
  • TPS (Temporary Protected Status)

There’s still aid available to you!

Let’s take a look at 3 types of Latinx students that may qualify for financial aid even if there’s a unique circumstance.

1. Undocumented Students

There’s an estimated 65,000 undocumented students who graduate from United States colleges each year. While applying for and qualifying for financial aid may be harder, it’s not impossible.

An undocumented student is classified as any person born outside the United States who isn’t a legal resident. Depending on your state or university, tuition and financial aid policies will vary.

For example, the University of Massachusetts Boston is one of the most progressive colleges in the country. They encourage undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students to apply for admission. 

This includes the Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix Immigrant Achievers Scholarship, specifically designed for nearly half of all students that come from immigrant families.

2. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

On June 15, 2002, the United States government announced that certain people who came to the United States as children can stay temporarily. There are criteria you must meet in order to qualify and stay within the United States.

For DACA students, there are a few more options that undocumented students do not have. They can apply for FAFSA, but they will not be able to get help from the government. Talk to your counselor to see what options your state offers.

There are scholarships that at one point only citizens and residents qualified for. Now DACA students can qualify. Organizations like the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Prospanica help LatinX students. They also offer scholarships that DACA students can apply for.

3. TPS (Temporary Protected Status)

Temporary Protected Status (or TPS) is a temporary benefit that doesn’t automatically lead to special immigration status. It also doesn’t lawfully give permanent resident status or any other status.

For students that have received a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this deferred action doesn’t provide lawful status. 

Also, DACA/TPS students are not eligible for federal, state, or institutional aid. If the DACA/TPS student has received a valid Social Security number or a valid Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), the student could be considered for scholarships from private donors or for private loans.

How to Find Free Money for College

There’s a lot of free money out there to help you pay for college. No matter if you’re documented or undocumented, you can find money for college.

My sister-in-law is a great example. As an undocumented student, she and her siblings struggled to find financial aid. They knew they wouldn’t qualify, but pushed ahead willing to track down whatever they could.  

Fast forward 4 years and my sister-in-law received her degree in business with honors. But imagine how much easier it would have been if she’d known where to find grants and scholarships? 

First, let’s uncover the different types of free money for college. There are 3 main categories:

  • Grants
  • Work-study
  • Scholarships

This free money can come from a variety of sources:

As an undocumented student, my sister-in-law was able to find scholarships. In fact, the majority of her financial aid came from scholarships. 

Yet, a gap in her finances still remained. While her father had the ability to pay the difference, that’s not always the case. If you’re similar, whether documented or undocumented, the list below will help.

I know for her and I’m certain for your parents as well, graduating from college is a dream come true. And as a Latinx student who paid her way through college, it’s my dream for you as well.

How to Find Scholarships for Latinx Students

Scholarships are free money you can apply for and don’t have to pay back. There are many scholarships out there, and it can get overwhelming.

I know I was when I began my college search. It even stopped me from looking.  But don’t worry. We’ve done the hard work for you and pulled together a list of Latinx scholarships:

  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). MALDEF is an organization committed to fighting and advocating for immigrant education equality. Throughout its 50+ year history, MALDEF has worked to secure Latino civil rights. Check out their Scholarship resources to find an extensive list of scholarships, including many that do not inquire about immigration status.
  • Act on a Dream is an organization run by the students at Harvard University. I love to hear when students take the lead to help. It makes you realize you’re not alone. Act on a Dream focuses on supporting immigrants in their community. One way is by listing scholarships you can apply for.

There are many other websites and organizations you can view for Latinx scholarships.

And you don’t have to stop there in your search. Your state and city will have scholarships as well.

In my search, I ended up staying in my state because of the scholarships offered. That may be the same for you.

There are also major-specific scholarships available. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon help students going into the technology field.

If you qualify for a scholarship, apply for it.

How to Start Saving for College Right Now

Saving for college is an important part of the college application process. No matter your age, there’s always an opportunity to get started.

While we’ve talked a lot about financial aid, you can’t always rely on it. Sure, Scholarships, Grants, and other resources are great. So is free money. 

But saving to supplement those options is critical to closing your budget gap. In fact, not saving early is why, as a Latinx student, my parents hoped I’d be eligible for as much aid as possible.

Wondering how to start saving? Below are a few ways to save money for college right now:

  • 529 Savings Plan: This plan is not a normal savings plan. It’s an investment plan that’s exempt from federal taxes. A couple things you should know:
    • Review different plans offered by your state before choosing one for yourself. 
    • The money saved in this plan should be used for educational expenses. If the funds are not used for educational expenses, you will see consequences. You would have to pay a penalty and pay the taxes that you have not paid.
  • Traditional Savings Account: The benefits are not similar to what you have with a 529 plan. One benefit is that you will be able to withdraw funds when you need them, but it is also a disadvantage. You will be late if you keep withdrawing funds.

My parents did their best to save for us, but life happened. They had other obligations they needed to use their funds for. They weren’t able to help us as much as they would have liked. I do wonder if they would have started sooner if things would have been different.

Let’s make today different for you. Every dollar you save right now is a dollar you won’t have to pay back.

How to Get FREE Money With FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is something you must apply for. And not just once, but each year you attend college. 

Not familiar with FAFSA? This government program helps determine how much help you will need and/or receive.

Through FAFSA, you’ll be able to see how much federal aid (grants, scholarships, loans) you will qualify for based on previous income.

If you’re a dependent student, it’s based on the income of your parents or guardian. If you’re a non-dependent student, it’s based on either your sole or joint income if a spouse or partner is included on your most previous tax return.

Types of Financial Aid You May Qualify For

  • Scholarships: As mentioned above, there are many scholarships that you can apply for. It’s free money that you can use for your college expenses.
  • Grants: Also known as Federal Pell Grants, are given by the federal government. In order to qualify, you must complete your FAFSA and demonstrate financial need. Grants are free money like scholarships. The difference is that there are certain scenarios in which it’s possible that you would have to return them. I had to pay back a grant I’d received. It wasn’t a fun experience.
  • Loans: You’ll likely qualify for loans when you complete your FAFSA. What you need to know:
    • Loans are money that must be paid back.
    • Payments tend to begin shortly after completing school.
    • There are different types of federal government loans. It all depends on what year you are in college to see which ones you qualify for.
    • You can get student loans through your bank or credit union.
    • In general, federal student loans have a lower interest rate than other options.

But, remember: loans should be your last option. If you have to request them, do your best to get the least amount possible.

I had to take out loans a few times while I worked my way through school. I started to make monthly payments right away, but not everyone has that option.

It helped me pay off the loan before it accrued much interest, but interest alone can be stifling to many struggling to get a job after college. 

My brother was someone stuck in this situation. He didn’t have a plan once my parents weren’t able to help. He accrued a lot of student loan debt. He also worked while going to school, so it took him longer to graduate.

Then he had a tough time getting a job after school with his degree. He’s still paying off that student loan debt. Don’t be like my brother. Plan ahead!

Learn More: Watch “How Financial Aid Really Works”

Final Thoughts

I think you’ll agree with me that going to college as a Latinx student is important. But let’s face it, college is expensive.

Sure, saving for college is important, but you won’t be able to save for everything. Scholarships and grants are a lifesaver when trying to find ways to get your degree.

Together, we’ll ensure you can graduate from college without getting stuck with a huge burden of debt. That’s where free money and resources come in.

Check out our online course to learn more!

Sign up for Financial Aid: Everything You Need to Know and get hands-on information about scholarships, grants, and so much more.

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