Student loans for DACA recipients

Compare 5 lenders you might qualify with — even if you don't have a cosigner.

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Your student loan options are slightly limited if you’re a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student. But there are still lenders willing to work with you — even if you don’t have a cosigner. But you might want to consider your other financial aid options first to avoid borrowing more than you need.

Can I get student loans as a DACA recipient?

Yes, you can get student loans as a DACA recipient from private lenders, your school and possibly your state. But you likely aren’t eligible for federal student aid — including federal student loans — since it’s only open to US citizens, permanent residents and eligible noncitizens.

5 private student loans available to DACA recipients

Can’t qualify for federal aid? You might want to check out the following private student loans.

LenderBest for …Cosigner required?
StiltStudents who are employedNo
Go to Stilt Inc.'s site
Mpower FinancingUpperclassmen with no cosigner optionsNoRead review
DiscoverHigh-achieving studentsYesRead review
Citizens BankCompetitive interest ratesYesRead review
Sallie MaeFlexible repayment optionsYesRead review

Stilt

  • APRs: 7.99% to 15.99%
  • Loan amounts: From 24 months
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $25,000
  • Eligibility requirements: Be employed, have a US bank account, live in a state where Stilt operates, hold one of the following visas: F-1 and OPT, H-1B, H4, O-1, L-1, TN, J-1, DACA or be a US citizen.

While technically not a student loan provider, this lender offers personal loans made for noncitizens living in the US. But you’ll need to be employed to qualify.

There’s also no option to apply with a cosigner, so your family can’t help you — unless they take out the loan in their name. These loans come in even smaller amounts than Mpower, so you might not be able to cover your entire degree.

Mpower Financing

  • APRs: 8.89% to 14.97%
  • Loan amounts: $2,001 to $50,000
  • Loan terms: Up to 120 months
  • Eligibility requirements: F-1 student visa, attendance at partner university and in last two years of degree program

This lender is one of the few student loan providers that specializes in financing for international students and DACA recipients. It doesn’t require a cosigner who’s a US citizen or permanent resident — and you don’t need to have a job or credit score.

The downside is that you need to be in the last two years of your degree to qualify. And its loans come with higher rates and lower maximum amounts than you might find with other providers.

Discover

  • APRs: 4.74% to 12.49%
  • Loan amounts: From $1,000
  • Loan terms: Up to 20 years
  • Eligibility requirements: Must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school with satisfactory academic progress and seeking a degree. Must be a US citizen, permanent resident or international student.

While you can’t qualify on your own, Discover treats DACA recipients as international students on a visa. This means you have to apply with an eligible citizen or permanent resident cosigner to qualify. Unlike Mpower, Discover offers funding for your entire program.

This lender might be a particularly good choice if you’re a strong student — it offers a cashback reward if you keep your GPA over a 3.0. It also has lots of options for graduate students and postgraduate expenses.

Citizens Bank

  • APRs: 3.24% to 11.50%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $295,000
  • Loan terms: Up to 180 months
  • Eligibility requirements: Be the age of majority in your state, be enrolled as at least half-time at an eligible school, be a US citizen or resident and have good credit or a cosigner with good credit

Like Discover, this bank also allows DACA recipients to apply as international students with a US citizen or permanent resident cosigner. It offers student loans for undergraduate and graduate students — and you only have to apply once to fund your entire degree.

It also has some of the lowest rates out there available to DACA recipients. But its loans come with relatively short terms, so you might want to look elsewhere for more affordable monthly repayments.

Sallie Mae

  • APRs: 2.87% to 10.33%
  • Loan terms: Up to 240 months
  • Eligibility requirements:

Sallie Mae offers a wide range of student loans for everyone from undergraduates to doctors in their residency. While you have to apply with a cosigner who’s a US citizen or permanent resident to qualify, it offers cosigner release. This allows you to move the loan to your name if your legal status changes.

Its loans also come with more flexible repayment options than you might find with other private lenders, like allowing you to defer your loans when you go back to school or during an internship.

Where else can I find student loans?

There are a couple of other places where you may be able to find student loans besides private lenders.

Your state or local government

While you might not be able to qualify for federal aid, you might be eligible for student loans offered by your state or city’s Department of Education. These often come with more competitive rates and terms, as well as more flexible repayment options than private lenders. Generally, all students get the same rate. And you typically don’t need to apply with a cosigner to qualify.

Your school

Some universities offer institutional loans to students, which may be available to DACA recipients. These tend to have rates and terms comparable to state options — and all students usually get the same rate. These might come in lower amounts, but they’re generally meant to supplement state and federal aid.

What are my other financial aid options?

Before you apply for student loans, you might want to look into free aid available to you first. This includes:

  • Scholarships. After the Dream Act was passed, many organizations such as TheDream.US and Golden Door Scholars started offering scholarships specifically designed for DACA students. Your school and state might also offer its own scholarship programs, which are usually based on merit.
  • Grants. Private organizations, your school, and your state and local government might also offer need-based funding you can qualify for if you’re a low-income DACA recipient.

Take advantage of online resources like those provided by United We Dream, which has a searchable list of financial aid designed specifically for DACA students on its website.

3 steps to find all of the financial aid available to you

Want to limit how much you need to borrow? Follow these steps to ensure you find all of the free aid you’re eligible for:

  1. Research scholarships and grants while you’re in high school. Get started early — and enlist the help of your college adviser or guidance counselor to keep you aware of deadlines.
  2. Submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile ASAP. Even if you aren’t sure you qualify, submit both of these financial aid applications to maximize your options. You might be surprised to find that you actually are eligible for federal aid.
  3. Talk to your school’s financial aid office. Once you have an idea of where you’re going, reach out to the financial aid office to find out what other options you might have missed. Stay in touch to keep on top of new opportunities.

Don’t let the cost of applying to college get in your way

The fees involved with applying to college might cost some families nearly $5,000, but it doesn’t have to. If the cost of taking the SAT, submitting the CSS Profile and applying to multiple schools is standing in your way, you might be eligible for fee waivers.

You can also skip the expensive test prep courses by taking advantage of free tutoring opportunities in your neighborhood or high school. Talk to your high school college adviser to learn about other options available to you.

Bottom line

While federal and some private student loans are off the table for most DACA students, you still have several options. But you might want to look into free aid first. Scholarships and grants might be more widely available to you — and you don’t have to pay them back.

You can learn more about how paying for school works by checking out our guide to student loans.

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