Have You Been Dreaming? – MN Dream Act Released

There seems no better way to announce that the Minnesota Dream Act is operational than to give you all the memo received from the State of Minnesota earlier this month. It follows here. For many readers, this will be a dream come true. One note, however, is I’ve been asked to clarify the following instructions: During the application process, the student, and parents for dependent students, must work directly with MOHE’s contractor, Access Group, Inc. or with MOHE.

Sometimes dreams really do come true!

Minnesota Office of Higher Education
1450 Energy Park Drive, Suite 350
St. Paul, MN 55108-5227
Fax: 651-642-0567
Web: info.ohe@state.mn.us

DATE: August 9, 2013
TO: Minnesota Financial Aid Administrators and Community Partners
FROM: Ginny Dodds, Manager of State Financial Aid Programs
(651) 355-0610 Ginny.Dodds@state.mn.us

We are happy to report that the online 2013-2014 state financial aid application for undocumented students is now operational. We have revised our MN Dream Act web page (www.ohe.state.mn.us/MNDreamAct) to include a link to the application. We want students to access the application from our web page so they can download the MN-specific instructions that we created and view the data privacy notice. Since the online application is an existing financial aid application service used by other colleges and states, it contains some questions that will not be needed for Minnesota state financial aid. Our posted instructions let students know they can either skip such a question or enter any value, since the response will not be used.

It is very important that all undocumented students complete the online state financial aid application and not the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even an undocumented student with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) who has a Social Security number should not complete the FAFSA, since it will end up being rejected based on the citizenship interface with the Department of Homeland Security.

If a student or parent needs assistance while completing the state online financial aid application, customer service is available from the NeedAccess staff at (800) 282-1550 from 8:00 – 4:30 Monday through Friday. Families are also welcome to contact the State Grant unit at the MN Office of Higher Education between those same hours at (651) 642-0567 #2, or toll-free (800) 657-3866. Our office will have telephone translation services available for families who aren’t proficient in English.

When a student accesses the application, the student will want to click on the ‘Complete Your Need Access Application’ under ‘Students & Parents.’

Since this is the first year student will be using this application, they will then want to click on ‘New Users’ on the next screen. Note that this screen makes mention of an application fee. However, students will NOT have to pay an application fee since the Office of Higher Education is paying all the fees on behalf of student applicants.

The student will then be taken through the registration process, whereby the student enters his/her name and email address and then creates a user ID, password and security questions. The student should then check the box accepting the privacy policy, which informs the family that all information will be private and not sold to any outside organizations.

On the next screen, the student selects the 2013-2014 academic year, enters name and date of birth and enters a Social Security number (only students with DACA would have a SSN). Other undocumented students will want to check the item ‘Student does not have a Social Security number’ and then check ‘No, I need to create a new Applicant ID’ and click on ‘Next.’

The next screen then assigns the student a 9-digit Applicant ID number which will be used in lieu of a Social Security number. The first three digits will be 980, since that range is not used for Social Security numbers. The student will want to write down this number, as well as the student’s username and password, since these will be used to make corrections or apply for state financial aid in future years.

The student will then advance to a screen where the student selects the application under the ‘All Schools’ menu. Instead of selecting a school, students who would like to apply for state financial aid should select ‘MN Dream Act – State Financial Aid and U of M In-State Tuition’ from the menu and click the ‘Add’ button. This is true even for students attending MnSCU institutions. Students who ONLY want to apply for in-state tuition at the University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth or Twin Cities should select ‘MN Dream Act – Univ of MN In-State Tuition Only.’

Early in the application, the student will be asked whether the student wants to complete both the student and parent sections or just the student section. If a parent wants to complete the parent section separately, the parent will need to log in after the student has completed the student section to complete the application. The parent will need to know the student’s Applicant ID to retrieve the application. Otherwise, if the student knows all the parental information, the student can complete both sections of the application (about 80 percent of students complete the entire application).

The student will then proceed through the financial aid application. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THE STUDENT USE THE STATE APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS (posted on http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/MNDreamAct) WHILE COMPLETING THE APPLICATION. This application is quite different from the FAFSA and also contains questions that will not be used by the Office of Higher Education. The instructions identify those questions and let the student know how to respond.

Some of the major differences with the FAFSA:
• Sections and order are not the same
• Early on, all students are presented with the question about student household size, even if they are dependent. The state application instructions tell dependent students to enter ‘1’ in that field to prevent further questions about student household size members that should be answered only by independent students.
• Applicants are taken through the parent section if they are under 24 years old, even if they meet one of the criteria for being independent (they can actually leave the questions blank and proceed after seeing a warning message, though). However, dependent applicants MUST complete the parent section.
• There is a text question in both the student and parent sections of the application to describe any special circumstances (2400 characters in length). This will be used by the Office of Higher Education to identify possible cases for professional judgment adjustments.
• There is a section where the student lists all previous postsecondary institutions attended. This will be used to determine the amount of previous postsecondary education for the State Grant program.
• There are questions about each parent in the household that are presented prior to the question about parents’ household size. Students should make sure to only provide information about parents in the parents’ household. In the student’s biological/adoptive parents are not married, the same logic used for the FAFSA is used to determine which parent’s information to provide (the parent the student resided with the most during the past year or, if the student lived with each parent an exactly equal amount of time, the parent who provided the most financial support to the student in the past year or most recent year support was provided).
• There are questions about each member in the parents’ household other than the student and parents. These will be used for verification purposes in lieu of a verification worksheet.
• There are several customized questions that are used just for Minnesota applicants. These will be used to determine MN Dream Act eligibility, as well as state residency. (These students will NOT need to complete the separate State Grant online student eligibility questionnaire, since those questions are embedded in this state online application.)
• After a student completes/submits the application, they will see special instructions on the screen telling them what documentation they need to send to the MN Office of Higher Education. They will also receive the same instructions in an email from the state application system.
• Using the output from the state online financial aid application and documentation submitted by the student, the Office of Higher Education will determine the student’s eligibility for a MN State Grant and also inform the University of Minnesota Duluth and/or Twin Cities campuses about students who meet the criteria under the MN Dream Act and qualify for in-state tuition rates. (The MnSCU campuses are making their own determinations on in-state tuition rates based on MN Dream Act questions embedded in their online admissions applications.)
• The Office of Higher Education will notify the student’s college that a state financial aid application has been received, and the school will enter the student’s enrollment level and certify the student is eligible for a State Grant payment. Funds will then be disbursed by the Office to the school. The school will be able to view the student’s state financial aid application output on the Office’s web-based system in order to get information the school will need to award State Work Study or Postsecondary Child Care Grant funds in cases where the student has applied for those programs through the college financial aid office.
• Students who need to make corrections to their applications can log back into the state online application system with their username, password and Applicant ID from the link on http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/MNDreamAct.

We encourage you to contact our office at any time if you have questions about the state financial aid application process under the MN Dream Act. We support these students and look forward to working with them!