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Children of undocumented immigrants gain increased access to affordable, higher education

by Adrienne Verrilli, published

California’s Dream Act took a step forward when Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law AB 130, a portion of the Dream Act that allows children of undocumented immigrants to access privately-funded scholarships in order to attend California universities.

This means that undocumented students are now are eligible to apply for scholarships which they have long been denied access to. The law will take effect January 1, 2012. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-LA).

AB 130 comes just six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants are eligible for in-state tuition at California’s public universities. At the signing ceremony, Governor Brown said:

     "Today signing this Dream Act is another piece of investment in people, because people are what drives the culture, the economy, the state and our country.”

It is important to note that what this bill does not do is allow these children access to publicly-funded scholarships or other types of financial aid. It is the second piece of the Dream Act  – AB 131 – that would make children of undocumented immigrants eligible for state aid. AB 131 is also sponsored by Assemblyman Cedillo.

While seen as a step forward to many, in reality it will not affect that many students. According to a spokesperson for the California State University Chancellor’s office:

     "It's a pretty small number" of students affected. The CSU system oversees $25.7 million in private scholarships but students in the system receive a total of $2.4 billion in state and federal aid.”

That represents less than 11 percent of total available aid.  Moreover, many of the private scholarships have specific restrictions on who can receive them, so the law does not make these students eligible for all the private money.

Opponents of the measure had argued that it would take scholarship money from students who are in the country legally.  According to Sharon Runner, (R-Antelope Valley):

     “At a human level, I sympathize with the desire to obtain a higher education. But this is about fairness — financial aid should be granted to citizens who are in need."

But supporters continue to forge ahead. Assemblyman Cedillo is seeking to win the Legislature’s approval of AB 131 and send it to the governor’s desk later this summer.

NOTE: California’s Dream Act differs from the federal version of the Dream Act as it does not provide a path to citizenship.


* Personal note- This will be my last post on CAIVN. It has been such a pleasure to write about important topics that affect the everyday lives of Californians. I especially want to thank CAIVN’s editor Ryan Jaroncyk for allowing all the contributors to explore a wide-range of issues that we individually believe – but not always agree – will help California regain its leadership role in moving the entire country forward.

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