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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Students with undocumented parents skeptical to submit FAFSA form

Miranda+Quinn%2C+a+retention+specialist+for+Student+Social+Services%2C+works+in+her+office+on+March+6%2C+2024.+She+said+she+guides+students+through+the+FAFSA+application+process.
Rodolfo Zagal
Miranda Quinn, a retention specialist for Student Social Services, works in her office on March 6, 2024. She said she guides students through the FAFSA application process.

Christy Ramos, a sophomore at DePaul, might not be able to enroll for her junior year in College. Her future plans are contingent on her submission of her latest application for FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.  

Ramos, a Guatemalan-American studying health sciences, is the first in her family to attend college, and she hopes to honor her parents’ immigrating to Chicago by completing her degree. 

She first heard about problems with FAFSA earlier this year, when The Department of Education rolled out a relaunch of the website that had multiple glitches and left students with undocumented parents unable to submit a form for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Ramos is one of the students affected. She was born to immigrants residing in Chicago without any documentation and depends on financial aid from the government to fund her tuition at DePaul. However, she’s unsure about submitting her application because she worries that the discrepancy in the system could affect her parents. 

Ramos says that she is hesitant to tell her mother about the issues with the form. 

“I don’t want her to go through the difficult process of not getting verified. I really haven’t said anything except [that I’m] thinking of a gap year. I just like to keep it to myself until everything kind of mellows down,” Ramos said. 

Previously, students who had not listed a Social Security number or their parent’s Social Security number, could not submit an application and it would be marked as incomplete. The Department of Education had to manually resolve the issue for the applications to be considered for financial aid.

The Department of Education has now made “technical updates” to allow students and their parents to successfully submit the form without a Social Security number, according to a March 2024 announcement from the Federal Student Aid website.

Many students and their parents, however, are now alarmed over TransUnion, a credit reporting agency, now in charge of identity verification for the new FAFSA system. TransUnion has a contract with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Their contract with ICE may make some students hesitant to submit their FAFSA forms due to privacy concerns, said Miranda Quinn, a retention specialist for the Student Support Services (SSS) at DePaul who helps students file FAFSA every year. 

Melanie Lopez, a Mexican-American DePaul senior whose mother is undocumented, says that she fears that her forms will not be properly processed due to a lack of transparency from the Department of Education. 

“I don’t think they care. If they would have [put] more thought into this, or if decisions were made with people of color in the room, it would have been a completely different process,” Lopez said. 

Lopez said that the partnership between TransUnion and ICE has created fear among students. She has concerns about how this information is going to be processed, stored, and secured, and she is frustrated by the lack of transparency from the Department of Education.

Around 31 percent of all college students in 2021 are immigrants or have immigrant parents, according to a Migration Policy Institute-produced report. Many of these students are from low-income backgrounds and rely on the FAFSA form to apply for financial aid to pay for college. 

“This ‘Better FAFSA,’ for me at this point, is not any better because it provides students and their families with more barriers,” Quinn said. 

Quinn doesn’t expect students in this situation to receive a financial aid package until May 2024 at the earliest and the form processing timeline is unpredictable. 

“It doesn’t leave enough time for students and their parents to make an informed decision about financing their education because you don’t currently know what you’re eligible or could be eligible for,” Quinn said. 

Quinn registered for a webinar in January 2024 with the Department of Education to discuss when financial aid forms would be processed following the submission deadline, but the webinar was canceled. 

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