If you’re a Hispanic, Latino, or Latina student, this is a great time to be going to college.
According to Latino civil rights organization UnidosUS, 1 in 5 college students in the U.S. are now Latino or Latina — and by 2050, Hispanic or Latino students are expected to make up around a third of the total college population.
Unfortunately, Hispanic students are also statistically less likely to be able to pay for college. Almost half of Hispanic Americans are denied or approved for less credit than requested, and are 64% less likely to accumulate savings.
Bearing that in mind, it’s little wonder that twice as many minority students had to cancel or delay their study plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to white students.
But don’t despair, because there’s good news here, too.
If you want to go to college, there are a wide range of federal student aid opportunities, federal grants, loans, and scholarships for Hispanic students. You may even qualify for certain financial aid opportunities if you’re undocumented.
This article will explain how financial aid works, who qualifies for Hispanic scholarships, and resources you can use to find scholarships for Hispanic students.
How does financial aid for Hispanic students work?
It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your ethnicity is: college isn’t cheap.
For the 2021–22 academic year, private colleges in the U.S. were averaging $38,185 per year for tuition and fees. That’s on the more expensive side of the spectrum — but even out-of-state public colleges were averaging $22,698 per year.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of students don’t have that kind of money sitting in the bank.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you understand what financial assistance is and how it works before you head off to school.
Financial aid is funding support offered by the federal government, your state government, your school, charities, or another organization to help you pay for college.
If you’re applying for federal or state financial assistance, the process works the exact same way for both Hispanic and non-Hispanic students.
That being said, there are a few alternative options for undocumented students (we’ll cover this shortly).
First, we’ll walk you through how to apply for federal student aid as a Hispanic student.
Federal student aid for Hispanic students
When you hear people talking about financial aid, they’re normally going to be referencing one of two main financial aid categories: “self-help” and “gift aid.”
Self-help financial aid normally takes the form of an interest-subsidized student loan. It’s important to note that a loan is money that must be repaid over time — although most students are able to secure student loans with really attractive interest rates from the federal government.
By contrast, gift aid is a form of financial aid that you don’t have to repay. This normally takes the form of a college scholarship or a grant. Because gift aid doesn’t need to be repaid, this is normally the type of aid that you’ll want to focus on collecting while you’re preparing to attend college.
But it’s important to remember that gift aid will only take you part of the way. Given how expensive university tuition is, you may not be able to secure enough grants and scholarships to pay for your entire student tuition costs.
That’s why self-help student aid is an important way for you to fill in those gaps that family savings, scholarships, or grants just can’t cover.
As a Hispanic student, you can apply for both self-help and gift aid financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
If you’re unfamiliar with it, the FAFSA is a common application form that the federal government, most state governments, and a lot of colleges use to decide how much financial aid you’re eligible for.
That makes the FAFSA an incredibly important form to get right — but it also makes your life easier because you can gain access to a wide range of funding opportunities by completing just one application.
The earliest you can submit the FAFSA is October 1 of the academic year before you plan on attending school. If you plan on going to college right after high school, that means you can submit the FAFSA during your senior year.
When you complete and submit your FAFSA, you’ll be expected to include information about:
- The amount of money you have saved
- Any financial assets you own (normally through a custodial account or another investment account that’s been managed on your behalf as a kid)
- Any existing grants or scholarships you’ve secured
- How much money your parents make (if you are a dependant)
After you send in your FAFSA, the government will look at those numbers and decide how much you and your family can realistically afford to pay to go to school. Then, your college will make you an offer of financial aid.
This offer will likely feature a mix of financial aid forms, including a federal loan, grants, and one or more scholarships. It will all depend on the information you’ve included in your FAFSA.
Federal loans for Hispanic students
If you apply for financial aid as a Hispanic student, you’ll probably be offered one or more student loans as part of the financial aid offer your school makes to you.
Although you’re totally free to play the field and explore private loan options from banks, federal student loans are normally safer because they include a few extra protections you won’t get with a private loan.
Federal loans are overseen by the U.S. government and are commonly referred to as “Direct Loans.” There are four types of Direct Loans available for students:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are designed for undergraduates who demonstrate financial need.
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans that an undergraduate student, graduate student, or professional student can apply for. These aren’t based on financial need, which means anybody can apply.
- Direct PLUS Loans are for postgraduate and professional students or the parents of undergraduates unable to cover college expenses using other forms of financial aid. Eligibility for this loan type isn’t based on financial need, but you’ll need to pass a credit check.
- Direct Consolidation Loans are offered when you have multiple existing federal loans, and you want to combine them into a single loan instead.
Federal grants for Hispanic students
There are a number of grants offered by charities, businesses, and colleges. But the primary federal government grant students tend to qualify for is the Federal Pell Grant.
Federal Pell Grants are typically reserved for undergraduate students who can demonstrate exceptional financial need.
These grants are designed for students who haven’t already earned a college degree — which means you can’t get a four-year college degree in English and then try to get a Federal Pell Grant to fund an undergraduate nursing degree a few years later.
Unlike a Direct Loan, Federal Pell Grants don’t generally have to be repaid.
Can undocumented students receive federal aid?
The short answer is: no. Undocumented students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students aren’t eligible to receive federal funds for going to school.
The long answer is a bit more complicated — because even though undocumented college students don’t qualify for federal grants or federal loans, they may still be able to receive other government aid.
As we’ve already touched upon, the FAFSA is used by the federal government, your relevant state government, and your chosen college to decide what federal aid you’re eligible to receive.
And although the federal government is unlikely to offer an undocumented or DACA student anything, a state government might look at the exact same FAFSA application and be able to make an offer.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you complete a FAFSA for each and every year you plan to study at college — even if you think you’re ineligible to receive any aid.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Simply put, there is no federal legislation that mandates tuition for undocumented students.
That’s why states have ended up making their own laws surrounding what type of aid and tuition benefits DACA students or undocumented students are eligible for in-state.
This means your odds of getting state-based aid will vary based on which state you live in and whether your local government views DACA and undocumented students as state residents or not.
For example, states like California, New York, and Florida have all implemented policies that explicitly provide resident tuition and financial aid opportunities for undocumented students. Again, these opportunities would all be offered to students after submitting a FAFSA.
On the flip side, states like Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio have all introduced pretty restrictive guidelines around in-state tuition rates and financial aid opportunities for undocumented and DACA students.
In these states, you’d be a lot less likely to receive any help — although your college may still be able to offer its own grants and scholarships to help you out.
Scholarships for Hispanic students
Whether you qualify for federal financial student aid or not, there are tons of fantastic scholarship opportunities out there reserved exclusively for Hispanic, Latino, and Latina students.
To help you get started on your scholarship search, let’s break down how to qualify for a Hispanic scholarship, some resources to help you find Hispanic scholarships, and popular Hispanic scholarship programs you may want to check out.
Who qualifies for Hispanic scholarships?
In order to qualify for a Hispanic scholarship, you’ll typically need to fulfill a certain number of eligibility requirements.
Each scholarship and financial aid program designed for Hispanic students will normally have its own unique set of eligibility requirements — so you’ll need to contact each particular financial aid provider to find out what exactly those eligibility requirements are.
For example, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) has a firm set of base requirements that include:
- You must be a graduating high school senior or current college student at the undergraduate or postgraduate level.
- You must be a U.S. citizen, a permanent legal resident, or a DACA student.
- You must achieve a minimum grade point average (GPA).
- You must complete and submit the FAFSA.
- You must be of Hispanic heritage.
In terms of heritage, the HSF has a specific definition you’ll need to meet. To qualify, you must be at least 1/4 Hispanic from a family whose ancestors came from:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- El Salvador
Again, that’s just an example.
But as a point of reference, in order to qualify for a Hispanic scholarship, most schools and organizations will likely require proof of Hispanic heritage. You’ll also need to prove your intention to enroll in a university, a college, or a community college.
What are some resources that can help you find scholarships?
As we’ve already covered, there is a wide range of scholarships available for Hispanic students. In fact, there are so many scholarships out there that it can often be difficult trying to figure out where to get started looking.
Fortunately, there are a number of resources and Hispanic scholarship databases worth exploring. Let’s explore a few of the biggest and most popular options available to you:
Hispanic Heritage is a nonprofit organization that keeps an up-to-date database of scholarship information for Hispanic students. Unlike many other scholarship databases, this resource includes listings that are available in both English and Spanish.
LULAC National Educational Service Centers is another organization that provides various scholarship programs reserved exclusively for Hispanic students. This database covers scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Fastweb is one of the internet’s biggest scholarship databases. The site lists more than 1.5 million scholarship opportunities — and although Fastweb offers a range of general scholarship listings available to all students, it also advertises scholarships that are available solely for Hispanic students.
The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is an organization that offers and promotes numerous different scholarships. HACU also advertises a number of partner funding opportunities for Latino, Latina, and Hispanic students.
The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) is an organization that helps students who are migratory or seasonal farmworkers enrolled as first-year undergraduate students. The program is also available to the children of migratory or seasonal workers.
The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) is another program that offers various scholarships for students who qualify based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores.
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is an organization that maintains a database of scholarship opportunities designed exclusively for members of the U.S. Hispanic community.
Again, it’s important to note that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a huge volume of resources available out there. You just need to take the time to do your research and understand what sort of financial aid opportunities you’re looking for.
What are the most common scholarships for Hispanic students?
If you’re struggling to bridge the financial gap to pay for your education, don’t stress. There are plenty of inclusive scholarships available for Hispanic students. A lot of the biggest and most generous college scholarship packages are available and listed on the resources we’ve already covered.
But if you need a hand jumpstarting your search, here are a few of the most popular Hispanic scholarships available right now:
QuestBridge is a scholarship program designed to help remove financial obstacles for low-income students. Unlike most scholarship offerings, the QuestBridge program prioritizes undocumented students when trying to match students with financial aid.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund oversees an annual series of merit-based scholarships to students of Hispanic ethnicity. These scholarships are available for high school, community college, undergraduate, and graduate school students based on academic achievement.
Like the QuestBridge Program, HSF scholarships are available to DACA recipients.
California Dream Act is a program designed primarily to assist undocumented and non-resident students. To be eligible, Hispanic students must attend an eligible higher education institution or university in California. If you do secure a scholarship award, it’s critical to remember you’ll have to reapply every year.
Golden Door Scholars is a scholarship program that supports DACA and eligible non-resident students. To apply, you must demonstrate academic excellence, community engagement, and leadership experience.
TheDream.US is another scholarship opportunity for Hispanic students. It’s designed to support DACA recipients and undocumented students that exhibit financial need.
These scholarships should serve as a jumping-off point for Hispanic students in need of financial aid. But remember, there are many different options designed for students from all walks of life.
If you’re a Hispanic student who wants to go to college, you should never let a lack of resources discourage you from pursuing your dreams.
There are thousands of financial aid options out there — from federal student loans and federal grants to private loans, scholarships, and everything in between.
You might even be able to qualify for a number of financial aid opportunities if you’re undocumented or a DACA student. You just need to do your research, ask questions, and apply.
Want to find out how you can start saving for college now? Check out our Ultimate Saving Guide For High School Seniors Going Into College — and be sure to keep an eye on CouponFollow for specific college coupon codes you can take advantage of.