Getting a postsecondary education in the U.S. can be very expensive, even when that education is at a public institution. Non-citizens who lack a green card are not eligible for federal student aid. However, some types of student loans are still within reach, if you know where to look.
The federal government offers subsidized and unsubsidized student loans to American citizens and permanent residents. However, without a green card, it’s not possible to qualify for these. But certain states offer student loans for which students without a green card can qualify. For instance, Massachusetts, through the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, has a loan program for foreign students enrolled in one of over 80 institutions in the state. A cosigner with U.S. citizenship is required unless the foreign student is from Canada. Students can borrow the entire cost of their education, or just a portion. Minnesota offers a similar loan program, called SELF.
Private Educational Loans
Some lenders specialize in making private educational loans to students without citizenship or permanent resident status. For instance, the Global Student Loan Corporation allows international students to take out educational loans without the need for a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. However, GSLC may, in some instances, require a co-signer from the student’s home country. As of 2011, more than 36 institutions participate in this loan program.
Personal loans can be taken out to pay for anything, including tuition and other costs related to attending college. Most banks and credit unions offer personal loans, although applicant requirements vary wildly from one to the next. If a lender requires borrowers to have a green card, you may be able to still get a personal loan by getting someone to co-sign on the loan who is either a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. The downside of personal loans is that they tend to come with higher interest rates and shorter repayment periods.
Institutions often offer in-house student aid for students who do not have a green card and thus do not qualify for federal aid. In addition to private scholarships, they may offer some student loans, although these tend to be smaller in size and often short-term. Inquire at your institution’s financial aid office about any such loan opportunities.
Cynthia Gomez has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. She is currently an editor at a major publishing company, where she works on various trade journals. Gomez also spent many years working as a newspaper reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.