FAME Can Help New Mainers with Higher Education

We’re glad you’re here! In Maine and throughout the United States, higher education is one of the best ways to open the door to a better-paying job and more opportunities. But as a new Mainer, navigating higher education may include some additional steps or challenges. If you are the first in your family to attend college, the process may be unfamiliar and intimidating. If you attended college in another country, higher education in the United States might look very different.

FAME can help recent immigrants and refugees navigate higher education in the United States. FAME offers College Access and Financial Education staff working across Maine to help students reach their higher education goals. Floreka Malual is FAME’s dedicated college planning advisor working with new Mainers.

Regardless of your starting point, FAME is here to provide information, resources, and personalized support. Let us know how we can help you reach your educational goals!

Contact

Floreka Malual (she/her)
PH: 207-620-3530

Getting Ready for College

You may be the first person in your family to attend college or may have attended college in a different country, but are finding the options and processes are very different in the United States. Regardless of your starting point, knowing how higher education is organized in the U.S. can help you understand and explore you options.

Paying for College

Whether you’re an immigrant, refugee, or a new U.S. citizen, there is money available to help new Mainers pay for higher education. However, where the money comes from largely depends on whether or not you are eligible for federal student aid.

Are You Eligible for Federal Student Aid?

Generally, you are not eligible for federal student aid if:

  • You have been granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status.
  • You have only a “Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence” (I-171 or I-464).
  • You are in the U.S. on an F-1 or F-2 nonimmigrant student visa, or on a J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant exchange visitor visa.
  • You hold a G series visa (pertaining to international organizations).

To be eligible for federal student aid, you must be a U.S. citizen OR an eligible noncitizen.

Not sure if you’re eligible? Use our interactive eligibility questionnaire to help determine your status:

Track Your Case Status Online

Are you waiting to hear back about your case status? You can track the status of an immigration application, petition, or request with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services’ online case status tool

Paying for Higher Education – For New Mainers

Are you a new Mainer wondering how you’ll pay for your higher education? This video will tell you what you need to know, guide you through options for paying for college, and help you navigate the New Mainers section of the FAME website.

Scholarships for New Mainers

Scholarships provide money, often from private institutions or community organizations, that you will not need to repay. If you are not eligible for federal or state financial aid, you may be able to pay for some of your higher education expenses using scholarships.

Tips for Applying for Scholarships

Scholarships come in varying amounts and are offered by a variety of organizations, sometimes from your own community or high school. Local scholarships may be less competitive because they draw a smaller pool of candidates. To begin your search, check out:

  • Local high school teachers and the guidance office
  • College financial aid office
  • Employer/parents’ employer(s)
  • Faith-based institutions
  • Local service organizations
  • Town offices

YES, I’m eligible for federal student aid.

If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, the next step is to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

To learn more about how to file a FAFSA, visit FAME’s FAFSA section or watch this short video (in Arabic). If you are an eligible noncitizen, you will need to enter your eight or nine-digit Alien Registration Number (ARN) on the FAFSA.

If your parent does not have a Social Security Number, enter all zeros (e.g., 000000000) in the Social Security Number question.

If one or more of your parents live outside the United States, learn more about how to complete the FAFSA. If you are considered a dependent student, you typically need to provide parent information. Your parents’ specific situation will determine whose information is required, so review the below information carefully:

  • If your parents are married and one parent lives outside of the United States, both parents’ information will be needed. Parents will indicate that they are “Married filing separately.” The U.S.-residing parent will include their requested tax information. The international parent will provide their income and asset information, converted into U.S. dollars, and indicate “Foreign Country” and “Foreign Tax Return” where appropriate.
  • If your parents are not legally married or are divorced, information will be required only for the parent you reside with in the United States.
  • If both parents reside outside the United States but continue to provide most of your financial support, you will provide information for both parents. Your parents will indicate “Foreign Country” and “Foreign Tax Return” where appropriate.

Important FSA ID Information

One of the first steps when filing a FAFSA is to create an FSA ID. The FSA ID is a username and password you will use to access and sign your FAFSA. All students need an FSA ID and one parent of a dependent student will also need his or her own FSA ID to sign the FAFSA.

The FSA ID is tied to your Social Security Number. Be sure to write down all of the information used to create an FSA ID. Use FAME’s FSA ID Information Tracking Sheet to keep track of all FSA ID information.

For more information on creating an FSA ID, watch this short video. If you speak Arabic, we’ve created this video to help with creating and retrieving FSA IDs: Creating an FSA ID (in Arabic).

College Pathways Worksheet

FAME’s College Pathways Worksheet will help keep your planning on track as you work through the financial aid and scholarships processes and pursue other options to pay for college.

Have you had a change in citizenship status?

If your status has changed from an eligible noncitizen to a U.S. citizen, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to update your status. If you do not update your citizenship status with the SSA, it could delay your student financial aid. To contact the SSA call 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration’s website at ssa.gov.

Ready to take the next step?

Visit our Getting Ready for College page for helpful tips on preparing for higher ed.

NO, I’m not eligible for federal student aid at this time.

Even if you are not eligible for federal student aid, other options do exist. Consider the following:

School Choice

Attend a school that has policies and funding dedicated to supporting students who are not eligible for federal student aid funds. Here are some questions to ask when researching schools.

If the school you are planning to attend offers funding to DACA students or other students who are not eligible for federal student aid, ask them how to apply for those funds. In some cases, and if you have a Social Security Number, the school may want you to complete a FAFSA.

Resources to Explore

Pay As You Go

Pay as you go by attending school part-time, ideally with the help of scholarships, payment plans, and possible limited funding from the school. Most schools have payment plans that allow you to spread the cost of your course(s) over several payments throughout a semester or school year, making paying for classes easier to manage.

Employer Education Benefits

Work for an employer that provides education assistance for their employees. Some employers will cover a portion of your tuition or help support your educational goals in other ways.

Start by contacting your employer’s Human Resources office and asking them these questions about employer education benefits.

College Pathways for Asylum Seekers

In Maine and the United States, it usually takes several sources of funding to pay for college. Here are some options to consider.

Ready to take the next step?

Visit our Getting Ready for College page for helpful tips on preparing for higher ed.