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Articles / Paying for College / Admissions & FinAid Benefits of a Green Card

Admissions & FinAid Benefits of a Green Card

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 22, 2014

Question: Does having a green card ( not a US citizen ) result in any reduction in college fee or does it increase the chances of getting financial aid?

Are green card holders eligible of the US Federal Financial Aid?

Having a green card makes a huge difference. For starters, green-card holders (i.e., official U.S. Permanent Residents) DO qualify for Federal financial aid.

So, as a result, colleges that are “need-conscious” (which is the majority of schools) are more likely to admit a Permanent Resident who is seeking financial aid than they are to admit an applicant who needs financial assistance but who will NOT qualify for government help. (Need-conscious colleges are those that take an applicant’s financial requirements into consideration when making admission decisions.)  When a student requires financial aid but doesn’t qualify for Federal aid, the college must provide funds out of its own coffers. But when the student holds a green card, Uncle Sam can kick in. So it’s a budget-wise decision for admission officials to favor Permanent Residents over non-citizen applicants who don’t have green cards.

The college tuition itself is usually reduced when a Permanent Resident is applying to a public college university within his or her own state or to a school in a nearby state that offers in-state costs to its “neighbors.”  (Some colleges, however, offer in-state prices to residents who do nothold green cards but who can prove that they have resided in that state for at least a year.)  At private colleges and at most out-of-state public ones, the cost to green-card holders remains the same as the cost to all domestic and international students, but the options for receiving financial aid—and even for admission itself—are greatly improved.

So, for a non-citizen college applicant, holding a green card is even better than holding a Get Out of Jail Free card in a Monopoly game!


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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