Trying to Keep the Dream Alive

More students may soon gave access to funds to help pay for college.

By EGP News Report

State senators are scheduled to vote today on a measure that if passed would allow some undocumented students to apply for private scholarships and grants to help them pay tuition at California public colleges and universities.

However, a second bill to also allow them to receive state financial aid has been placed in suspence, and faces an Aug. 31 deadline to be voted out of the Senate Appropriation Committee or die this year.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Estudiantes Indocumentados Tratan de Mantener Vivo el Sueño

Passed in October 2001, AB 540 allows undocumented students who meet certain requirements to pay in-state resident fees rather than the much higher out of state tuition they were previously required to pay at University of California (UC), California State University (CSU) and California Community Colleges (CCC) campuses. It did not, however, make them eligible for state and federally funded financial aid or scholarships derived from non-public sources. If the Senate approves AB 130, one of two bills authored by Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, as part of the California Dream Act, private scholarships would no longer be off-limits.

Both bills were taken up at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on Monday, but only AB 130 was advanced. AB 131, the bill to allow state funded aid, was put on hold.

Earlier this year, thousands of calls were made to senators across the country urging them to pass the federal version of the DREAM Act, but they did not deliver.

Lacking financial resources to pay for their higher education, many talented students across the nation will be unable to afford college, say DREAM Act supporters.

While CA Dream Act supporters outnumbered those opposing the bill at Monday’s Senate hearing, there are folks who strongly oppose. A sample letter from the Concerned Women for America in California, the only organization on file opposed to the bills, stated: “As a California taxpayer, I find these bills very troubling. It would provide yet another magnet for illegal immigration. We already have millions of illegal aliens in this state, causing a severe financial burden on citizens and legal residents.”

Before AB 131 was sent to suspense, Senators Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento and Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, spoke in favor of its passage. “Yes, there’s cost, but you can’t put a cost on a young person not having the ability to fulfill their potential because of the restrictions to get an education,” said Steinberg. He went on to speak on the importance of making reinvesting in education the first priority as the economy improves. California has cut billions in education funding over the last few years.

Seeking to increase revenue, many of the state’s public colleges have turned to enrolling more out of state students, and are considering recruiting more international students. In a document released by Chancellor Linda Katehi of UC Davis, it was noted, “For each 50 additional international graduate professional degree students, the campus would generate an additional $0.9 million in net tuition revenue.”

While this may create revenue, California students are more likely to contribute to the state after graduation than out of state and international students. The University of California does not have any restrictions on admitting undocumented immigrants, but many who are accepted do not attend or finish because they cannot afford the tuition.

Paying for college just got even harder this week with the Board of Trustees of the California State University system raising tuition by another 12 percent for undergraduate students at Cal State campuses. The board said it had no choice, given the sharp cuts in state funding. The 12 percent hike will add $294 to the one-semester cost of attending a California State University beginning in the fall. The increase also means a full-time undergrad will pay $5,472 dollars per year.

Some people are concerned that allowing undocumented students to receive non-public scholarships and state financial aid will cut the amount of aid available to students already getting assistance, namely U.S. born students.

“High School Entitlement Cal Grants and Transfer Entitlement Cal Grants are unlimited,” according to Lori Nehzurah, Legislative Director of the California Student Aid Commission. They are available to all students who meet financial need, GPA, and other eligibility criteria, and that would be the same case for AB 540 qualified students, said Nehzurah, expressing the Commission’s support of the Dream Act in a comment posted to EGPNews.com.

Nehzura further stated that while there is a limited number of Competitive Cal Grants available, “approximately only 1 in 10 eligible applicants currently receive a Competitive Cal Grant, it is likely that there will be no fiscal impact to the State with respect to this particular program.” She also noted that Cedillo’s bill stipulates “Dream Act students may only receive one of these awards provided funds remain after all eligible non-AB 540 California residents are awarded.”

Some, including a number of business chambers and business executives, argue that the cost of not allowing undocumented students — brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, at no fault of their own, and who have lived in California for years, worked hard and achieved academic success — to receive state financial is ultimately more expensive because it dooms these students to low-paying jobs and robs businesses and the country of the educated workforce needed to compete globally and the higher taxes and consumer spending their incomes would generate.

Reporting from Sacramento, Deonna Anderson contributed to this story.

Editor’s Note: This story had been updated to correct an earlier version that erroneously implied Lori Nehzurah, Legislative Director of the California Student Aid Commission was expressing the Commission’s disapproval of Cedillo’s measures because there are not enough grants available, in fact, the Commission supports passage of the Dream Act.

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July 14, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

2 Responses to “Trying to Keep the Dream Alive”

  1. Don on July 14th, 2011 6:54 am

    This is the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party in California.

  2. Lori Nezhura on July 14th, 2011 3:32 pm

    On behalf of the California Student Aid Commission, I am requesting a correction to a quote attributed to me, Lori Nezhura, Legislative Director for the California Student Aid Commission, in the “Trying to Keep the Dream Alive” article posted on July 14, 2011.

    It is imperative that your readers be informed that the number of High School Entitlement Cal Grants and Transfer Entitlement Cal Grants are unlimited and available to all students meeting financial need, GPA, and other eligibility criteria. Therefore, if passed, Dream Act students will be able to receive these awards if they meet the same requirements.

    Conversely, the number of Competitive Cal Grants is limited. However, the bill stipulates that Dream Act students may only receive one of these awards provided funds remain after all eligible non-AB 540 California residents are awarded. Since approximately only 1 in 10 eligible applicants currently receive a Competitive Cal Grant, it is likely that there will be no fiscal impact to the State with respect to this particular program.

    The actual context of my testimony underscored Commission SUPPORT of the Dream Act and our mission to provide access and opportunity for ALL California students to achieve education beyond high school.

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