Information for Educators
As educators, you are on the front lines of helping students and their families understand their options during the complicated process of college application. You may also be working with students –or former students — who are directly impacted by policy decisions that may put them or their families at risk. As a Coalition, our goal is to ensure that you are equipped with accurate, up-to-date information and resources to share with your students and colleagues. The following information addresses the most frequently asked questions by educators, and what educators need to know to support their undocumented and DACAmented students.
Can undocumented students go to college in Tennessee? What if my student is looking for out-of-state options?
Yes. If a student is interested in pursuing higher education, they are allowed to apply to public and private colleges and universities and, if accepted, enroll as students. In Tennessee, there are no laws or policies prohibiting undocumented students from enrolling in college or university.
For students considering applying to colleges out of state, it is important to know that enrollment policies vary state-to-state. There are currently two states (Alabama and South Carolina) that expressly prohibit the enrollment of undocumented students in public institutions. Additionally, three states (Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana) prohibit undocumented students from accessing in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. When advising students on college options out-of-state, it is best to be aware of the enrollment policies in place at each state. Learn more here.
Do undocumented students qualify for state financial aid or federal financial aid?
If a student is undocumented or has DACA, they do not qualify for federal OR state financial aid. To receive federal financial aid, a student must be a U.S. citizen, a legal permanent resident, or an eligible non-citizen.Undocumented and DACAmented students are not eligible for the PELL grant, or for any federal student loans.
In Tennessee, undocumented or DACAmented students do not qualify for state financial aid. This includes the Tennessee Promise program and the Tennessee HOPE scholarship.
Do my undocumented students qualify for in-state resident tuition rates in Tennessee?
No. Tennessee has not passed any state law or policy that would allow undocumented students to access in-state tuition rates at public institutions. As of now, undocumented or DACAmented students in Tennessee must pay out-of-state tuition rates.
Our partners, The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), lead the Tuition Opportunity Campaign, which is a movement to pass a bill through the Tennessee legislature allowing undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates. Visit their website to learn more about the campaign and ways to get involved.
What are some things I can do to help my students understand their college options?
As educators, it is important to know that while you may be ready to help your undocumented students, they may not be ready to disclose their status to you or their peers. Students are also not obligated to share their citizenship information, and educators do not have the right to ask. Students should volunteer this information. However, there are ways to ensure that you are reaching your students who may not have disclosed their status to you. As you review college options, we encourage you to always make mention of the pathway for undocumented students.
For example, when discussing the difference between a public and private institution, this would be a good time to mention that in Tennessee, undocumented students pay out-of-state rates at public institutions. Also, if you highlight colleges and universities, highlighting some that we have identified as undocumented-friendly can help students learn about ways to finance their education. You could also consider visibly displaying a list of scholarships that undocumented students can apply for, with tips on what to know as an undocumented student.
Providing as much information as possible, without directly targeting or calling out students, is the best way to make them feel comfortable enough to look to you for advice.
What is DACA? What does the change to DACA mean for my students?
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an executive order announced by President Obama in 2012. DACA allows certain young people, often referred to as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children to qualify for protection from deportation proceedings and remain in the country. Young people who are approved for DACA receive a social security number to be able to obtain employment and in some states — including Tennessee — can get a driver’s license. DACA provides protection for two years, and individuals can reapply when close to their expiration date.
On Tuesday September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration will rescind the DACA program. (to learn more about what the end of DACA means visit: DACA page)
The end of the DACA program does not mean that students will no longer be able to apply or enroll in college. This does not change enrollment options (see question one).
Students may be most impacted by the loss of reprieve from deportation and the expiration of their work permit,. A students DACA and work permit will remain valid until the expiration date, but after that date a student will no longer have protected status or the legal right to work. After the expiration of their DACA, students will return to a status of being undocumented. This could potentially put them at risk of deportation. Additionally, once their work permits expire students cannot legally continue to work. If a student is relying on a job to finance their education, the end of DACA could have significant consequences for that student.
What are some things I can do as an educator to support my undocumented students?
A few tips to help you be an ally and advocate for your undocumented students:
- Learn the correct terminology, and why it matters. Use terms like “undocumented” when referring to your students that do not have legal status. Refrain from using dehumanizing terms like “illegal” or “alien.”
- Do the heavy lift of learning more about the history of immigration in the United States and why some people, including your students, are undocumented.
- Be intersectional in your support for students: Don’t assume all your latino students are undocumented or that only your latino students are undocumented. The undocumented community is made up of blacks, asians, east europeans, and others!
- Display images of support for your students, including information for them on how to apply to college.
- Incorporate self-care techniques into your classroom activity. Can you take 5 minutes a week to teach your class breathing techniques or other ways to handle stress? There is unspoken anxiety and fear in the immigrant community, and your undocumented and DACAmented students may need help processing their emotions in a healthy way.
- Has your school, school district,school board, college, or university put out a statement of support for your undocumented and DACAmented educators and students? If not, can you advocate for them to do so?
You can also utilize our Dream Act Lessons & Resource Guide for a culturally competent manner of incorporating current themes into your classroom discussions.
I am a college advisor, how can I help undocumented students apply for college and financial aid?
Remember, undocumented students CAN go to college! Familiarize yourself with the tuition landscape, and with the financial aid and scholarship opportunities for undocumented and DACAmented students. Use our undocumented-friendly page and the financing college page to understand the landscape for undocumented students, and consider having a printed list of scholarship options for students who ask.
Also keep in mind that undocumented students may be the first in their family to go to college in the United States. Ensure that they are aware of and comfortable with the process, and check-in with them often to ensure they are successfully navigating the process.
What other options are available for undocumented students in Tennessee?
Three other options undocumented students can consider are Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, Tennessee e-campus, and pursuing higher education in Kentucky.
- Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) : TCAT’s do not have out- of-state tuition rates, therefore undocumented students pay the same rates as all other admitted students. TCAT programs of study include: automotive technology, aviation maintenance, dental assisting, cosmetology, early childhood education, medical assistant, practical nursing, among others.
- TN E-Campus: The TN E-Campus is a resource for accessing online programs and courses offered by Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) institutions. Institutions include universities, community colleges, and TCATs. Undocumented students must pay out-of- state tuition rates to take these courses.
- Kentucky: Kentucky and Tennessee established an agreement in 2007 that allows some institutions in one state to offer in-state tuition to students from another state. The agreement is important for undocumented students, since Kentucky offers in-state tuition rates to undocumented students. Students must live in a certain county to access the benefits of the agreement.