Gov. Brown Signs DREAM Act Into Law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 131 — the second part of the DREAM Act — into law on Oct. 9, making undocumented students eligible to receive state financial aid to attend California community colleges and universities. The first component of the DREAM Act, AB 130 — which passed July 25, 2011— grants undocumented students access to privately funded financial aid.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” Gov. Brown said in a statement released Oct. 9. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

The bill, authored by Rep. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. It is estimated to help 2,500 qualifying students receive Cal Grants at a cost of $14.5 million to the state, according to the California Department of Finance. This sum amounts to one percent of the $1.4 billion funded Cal Grant program. Additionally, the law stipulates that financial aid be given to U.S. students and legal residents before given to undocumented students.

“I hope the passage of this bill will allow more students to both continue attending UCSD and be able to attend UCSD in the future,” Associate Vice President of Diversity Affairs Jesus Romero said in an email. “It’s important because not only have these students attended school in California but also contribute to our economies along with their families.”

However, critics of the DREAM Act argue that it prioritizes undocumented students over the state economy and debt situation.

“California families are struggling to make ends meet and send their kids to college,” Sen. Joel Anderson (R-La Mesa) said to the San Diego Union-Tribune in “Student-aid bill for immigrants signed,” released on Oct. 8. “For the state to prioritize and subsidize the tuition of non-Californians over Californians is flat-out wrong.”

According to the University of California Office of the President, an estimated 800 students eligible under AB 540 would also qualify for the Cal Grant entitlement program. It is also estimated that an additional 390 to 488 students would qualify for institutional aid.

“These students are demonstrably among the best and brightest on our campuses — highly motivated to succeed despite all the obstacles they face,” UCOP legislative director Nadia Leal-Carrillo said in a Sept. 6 letter of support addressed to Gov. Brown. “Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend UC.”  
Romero estimates that visible effects will not be seen on campus until the bill goes into effect and the logistics of distributing financial aid are determined. He does feel, however, that AB 131 can immediately help undocumented students currently attending UCSD.

“We already have a number of undocumented students who attend UCSD and this will allow for more access and retention,” Romero said.

According to Romero, A.S. Council helped lobby for the bill through the efforts of the Vice President’s External Office and UCSD Delegation participation in a call-in during the University of California Student Association Congress.