California DREAM Act Becomes Reality


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Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 131 into law. The legislation joins AB 130, which was signed earlier this year. Together, the two bills authored by Gil Cedillo will allow AB 540 students to apply for and receive scholarships at private and public colleges and universities starting in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Undocumented students now how a greater means to finance their educational aspirations. Unlike the federal DREAM Act, the California DREAM Act does not provide a pathway to citizenship and where future graduates will go with degrees in hand remains an open question. Still, it is a great victory for all those student activists and allies who have worked hard to arrive to this day.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking. The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us,” Brown said in a written statement. This is welcomed, given the fact that the Governor could have cowered to xenophobia and deny the public college portion of the legislation.

For more information, the following is a California Dream Act Fact Sheet on the legislation provided by the Dream Resource Center:

Background

AB 540, a California law passed in 2001, allows students to pay in-state tuition rates if they meet all of the following requirements:

1) Attended a California high school for 3 or more years.

2) Graduated from a California high school with a high school diploma or attained the equivalent (GED).

3) After getting accepted to a California  public university or college, if undocumented, the student must file an affidavit with the intended college or university stating their eligibility under AB 540 and intention of applying for a lawful immigration status as soon as they are eligible.

Before AB 130 and AB 131, AB 540 status holders who were  undocumented did not qualify for financial aid administered by the state or their respective institutions.

AB 130

What does AB 130 do for undocumented students?

In the past, California public colleges and universities were bound by the state to withhold financial assistance to their undocumented students. AB 130 gives California public colleges and universities the opportunity to allow undocumented students to apply and compete for scholarship awards. These include scholarships funded through private donors, alumni contributions or individual departmental efforts.

How can an undocumented student access funds made available by AB 130?

Students must apply and compete for available awards as outlined by their respective college or university. Provisions of AB 130 will not go into effect until January 1, 2012.

AB 131

What does AB 131 do for undocumented students?

In the past, the State of California did not administer a financial aid program for undocumented students. This bill allows undocumented students who qualify for AB 540 to participate in state funded financial aid programs:

  • AB 131 calls for California’s community colleges to allow students to apply for the Board of Governor’s Fee Waivers, which waive the educational fees of qualifying low-income students.
  • AB 131 also calls for the establishment of procedures and forms that would enable current AB 540 status holders to apply for, and participate in, other student aid programs administered by California’s public colleges and universities such as institutional aid derived from tuition revenue.
  • Lastly, AB 131 calls for the State of California to allow AB-540 status holders to participate in any state-administered financial aid programs such as Cal Grants. However, funds for the Competitive Cal Grants will not be made available to undocumented students unless funding remains available after their California resident counterparts have received theirs. Please see http://www.calgrants.org/ for information on the different types of Cal Grants that California administers. According to a statement released by the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, “The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131.

How can an undocumented student access funds made available by AB 131?

For institutional-based awards, students must apply and compete for available awards as outlined by their respective college or university. For Cal Grants or other state funded assistance, the California Student Aid Commission will develop a system for applying to aid, given that undocumented students cannot apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to determine their income level and need. Information on new processes will be disseminated as soon as it is available. Provisions of AB 131 will not go into effect until January 1, 2013.


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