New state financial aid available for undocumented Mason students and prospective students

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George Mason University students and prospective students ineligible for federal aid, such as undocumented students or students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, now have an alternative option for financial aid.

The Virginia Alternative State Aid Application (VASA) is a free and safe way for students to pursue financial assistance for undergraduate education. The deadline for priority consideration is Feb. 1. Interested current and prospective undergraduate students should click here for additional information and the application. Students and prospective students can also click here to determine if they should file a VA­SA or a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.

“The Virginia Alternative State Aid ­Application provides a great opportunity for more students in our region to attend college,” said Alan Byrd, dean of admissions. “By allowing students who are not eligible to submit the FAFSA to be considered for the state financial aid programs in Virginia, VASA will provide much needed financial support to undocumented students and students with DACA status who demonstrate financial need. We have hundreds of highly talented students applying to Mason who will benefit from this opportunity.”

Previously, undocumented students or students with DACA status couldn’t receive federal or state financial aid. They also couldn’t get the benefit of in-state Virginia tuition, regardless of domicile. However, Virginia’s new laws went into effect in January, allowing for in-state tuition and state financial aid.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the coordinating body for higher education in the commonwealth, partnered with Regent Education to support the legislation extending state financial aid to more students. Eligible students must have completed at least two full years of high school in Virginia, graduate from high school in Virginia, and demonstrate that the family has filed Virginia state income taxes for at least two years.

VASA determines student or prospective student eligibility for Virginia need-based financial assistance. The application should only be completed by Virginia residents who are ineligible for FAFSA funding. The alternative aid application is designed to calculate students’ Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is then used to determine eligibility for state need-based financial assistance for public institutions.

Students who fill out the alternative aid application can then be considered for state need-based financial aid, including the Commonwealth Award and the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program, along with Mason awards reserved for Virginia residents.

State grant awards range from $3,500 to $4,800 a year for those who qualify for the full amount, said Sandra Tarbox, Mason’s director of financial aid.

“This amount of grant aid would go a long way to helping students pay tuition and fees,” Tarbox said.

Tarbox said that her office has been working with University Life to identify students who may qualify to file the VASA application and have been working to contact those students directly. They have identified more than 230 who may be eligible.

“We will continue to work with University Life to identify others,” Tarbox said. “However, we really need our Virginia undergraduate population to self-identify by completing the VASA application so we can help them receive this grant aid. I know the Admissions Office will be sharing information on the VASA application with their prospective student population as well.”