The California DREAM Loan Act, or Senate Bill 1210, is supported by the UC and CSU systems and is anticipated to aid 1,500 students within the first year it goes into effect. Those numbers are set to increase to about 1,800 by 2018-19.
Proposed by Sen. Ricardo Lara and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 1210 was approved by the UC. Granting undocumented students access to a student loan of up to $4,000 each academic year, the loan aims to minimize the existing financial gap between AB540 and non-AB540 students.
California state law Assembly Bill 540 (AB540) allows students who meet certain requirements to pay for in-state tuition fees at any UC, CSU or California community college, according to the California Dream Network.
“It is going to inspire a lot of students because when they receive their financial aid package they’re more than likely not going to see the [financial] gap anymore,” said second-year anthropology and legal studies AB540 student Jahir Salinas. “When you have no gap, you go for the opportunity.”
The UC has about 2,000 undocumented students, most of whom are undergraduates. Students are not required to provide their immigration status to the university. The estimate comes from self-identification, either through applying for financial aid or once classes begin.
UC spokesperson and media relations specialist Brooke Converse said the university needs to match every dollar the state puts forward in order for the program to support itself.
The DREAM Loan Act will cost the state and UC an estimated $3.1 million each in its first year and $3.6 million the following year. In an email statement, Converse said the state and UC contributions are expected to decline as the program becomes self-sustaining by its 11th year when students are expected to begin paying off their loans. That same money will be used toward future loans for other undocumented students.
“We do not anticipate any DREAM loans will be available until at least fall 2015, provided the state funds become available during the next legislative season,” Converse said.
While the DREAM Loan Act is a step forward, taking on more loans without the promise of citizenship status is not ideal, Salinas said.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals DACA) is the only legislation allowing individuals who are undocumented to be eligible for work authorization without providing citizenship. Salinas said if a new president is elected and DACA is revoked, undocumented students may lose their right to work and will not be able to pay off their loans.
“Why take the loan, fall into more debt and still be deported? There’s no promise DACA is going to stay and there’s no promise of residency,” Salinas said. “You only get two years. If you get renewed or not, that’s up to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and you still have the loan to pay off.”
DACA was issued by the Obama administration in 2012 and implemented by Janet Napolitano
while she was Secretary of Homeland Security. People who are eligible may request consideration of deferred action for a period of only two years, according to USCIS.
UC Hastings law professor Kelly Weisberg said she always had a special place in her heart for UCSC’s dreamers. She believes the UC needs to do everything to help students achieve their dream of an education.
Weisberg organized a legal clinic at UCSC earlier this month in collaboration between UC Hastings law students, Santa Cruz immigration attorneys and the Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP). The legal clinics helped about 40 students with their DACA applications and renewals.
“How can one juggle all of these different factors and still attend UCSC?” Salinas said. “That’s the real feat many people overlook.”
There are economic factors, Salinas said, that exist due to the gap of about $10,000 which dreamers currently have to fill by applying for scholarships or paying out of pocket. The majority of dreamers’ expected family contribution is $0, meaning a student’s source of annual income is less than $60,000.
The estimated cost at UCSC for in-state residents is about $34,000 — including expenses such as tuition, books and room and board- — while the average financial aid package for a dreamer only consists of the Cal Grant and the university grant amounting to $23,000. AB540 students also do not qualify for federal financial aid.
“The new state loan program doesn’t address that fact because it is a state-based program,” Weisberg said. “For most students, federal student loans are an important component of their financial aid packages because there isn’t enough scholarship money to go around.”
However, Salinas said he has too much to lose if he has to give up on his education, so he tries to find the resources necessary to reduce the financial gap.
“I do have to say that while this new loan program is an important step in equalizing access to financial aid for undocumented students, it is only a first step,” Weisberg said. “There still exists a shortfall.”