Ability to pay will no longer be a factor in the admissions process for undocumented students, the University announced Tuesday.

Although undocumented students were previously considered international students for admissions purposes, the change means they will be evaluated on the same need-blind admissions standard as their counterparts at U.S. high schools with legal status. The need-blind re-categorization will apply to students being selected for the Class of 2021.

“Duke wants to be a place where any student with the talent, drive and potential can come here,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, in a Duke Today release. “We’re not putting a thumb on the scale for these students. They’re being treated like any other students—and it’s very hard to get in here.”

Duke meets all demonstrated need for students admitted through the need-blind process, but undocumented students remain ineligible for federal aid. The statement also noted that undocumented students do not need to qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—more commonly known as DACA—program to be considered for admission.

There are five undocumented students in the Class of 2020, and generally "just a handful" of undocumented students enrolling per year, Nowicki said in the release.

Dean of Undergraduate Students Christoph Guttentag said in the release that this change in the admissions process could increase the number of undocumented students who apply to Duke. 

“I do anticipate the number of undocumented students who apply will increase,” he noted. “But until we look at them, it’s hard to know how many will have the attributes to make them compelling applicants.”

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, explained that until three years ago the University evaluated undocumented students in comparison with international students who did not need financial aid. The policy was changed three years ago when Duke started comparing undocumented students with international students who were eligible for financial aid. 

Undocumented students' applications will now be evaluated alongside domestic applicants. 

"It was a very competitive pool with very high achieving students," Schoenfeld said. "Given the financial circumstances that many undocumented students are in, not having access to financial aid would make it difficult if not impossible to come to Duke. So we want Duke to be an attractive option for highest achieving students in the country and around the world."

This article was updated at 5:57 pm to include the information and quote from Schoenfeld.