Over 3,000 undocumented students in the UC system will have access to $5 million of financial aid through the DREAM Loan Program for the 2015–16 academic year, according to a Jan. 28 press release from the UC Office of the President. The UCOP will distribute funds based on need throughout the UC campuses, giving AB 540 — undocumented students — access to thousands of dollars in federal loans.
UC President Janet Napolitano expanded on the goal of the DREAM Loan program in the recent UC press release, explaining that it is an investment in the future of our country.
“By reducing barriers and expanding access to higher education for undocumented students, the University of California is investing not only in the future of these students, but also in the future of our state and nation,” Napolitano explained.
After Napolitano proposed the DREAM Loan Program in 2014, the state Legislature authorized it by passing SB 1210. However, funding was not made available until the 2015–16 academic year. According to UCOP Media Specialist Kate Moser, UCOP secured the state funding in summer 2015 and spent some time adjusting the systemwide loan program so that they could best serve students. Students can apply loans to their expenses for the 2015–16 academic year as well as future years, if they maintain part-time enrollment status at a UC school.
Although the exact amount students may receive from the program is determined individually by each UC campus, they can receive up to $4,000 per year from the program and a maximum of $20,000 before they graduate. For this academic year, the interest rate on these loans is 4.29 percent.
Prior to the DREAM Loan Program, undocumented students were eligible for Cal Grants, UC grants and scholarships as well as a few private loans. However, the funds for the new program are dedicated specifically to AB 540 students.
A.S. Associated Vice President of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Daniel Juarez pointed out that AB 540 students may not necessarily receive documentation after graduating, which will make it difficult for them to pay back their loans.
“Sometimes accessing jobs is not as easy for undocumented students once they graduate,” Juarez explained. “Just because they graduate doesn’t mean they’re gonna be given documentation right away, so the ability to pay back those loans is definitely a question, especially for undocumented students that are coming from working class backgrounds.”
Juarez acknowledged, however, that the program is certainly a step in the right direction.
“[The loans] are definitely a step towards making the university more accessible, but ideally [the UC system should] move toward more grants, actually providing money that [students] don’t have to pay back.”
Moser also explained that the DREAM Loan program will give AB 540 students an avenue to overcome the obstacles they face as undocumented students.
“DREAM Loan Program will help ensure that undocumented students who earn admission to the University of California have what they need to overcome the unique obstacles they face and achieve a world-class UC education,” Moser said.