By Patricia Decker
Bay City News Service
One day before the Oct. 9 deadline to approve or veto a bill that would allow undocumented students to receive public financial aid for higher education, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he signed the California Dream Act.
The bill, AB 131, is the second of two bills that make up the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act. In July, Brown signed AB 130, a bill allowing undocumented students to receive private scholarships.
"Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking," Brown said in a statement. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us."
Effective Jan. 1, 2013, undocumented students attending public higher educational institutions who qualify for the exemption from non-resident tuition will be eligible to receive financial aid at the state's public colleges and universities.
Currently, undocumented students cannot receive state or federal financial aid. According to the Immigration Policy Center, although some 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, only 5 to 10 percent continue onto college, with many unable to continue for financial reasons or because schools do not allow them to enroll.
The bill enables those students to become eligible to receive institutional financial aid at schools in the UC or California State University systems, have community college fees waived and to receive Cal Grants, which do not have to be repaid.
However, undocumented students would only become eligible for Cal Grants once all resident students have received such an award.
Analysis of the bill by the Assembly noted that the demand for the aid -- which can provide up to $12,192 a year to pay for college expenses at qualifying California academic institutions or trade schools -- far exceeds the amount of funding typically provided, making it unlikely that undocumented students would be considered.
The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students, at a cost to the state of $14.5 million, will qualify for Cal Grants thanks to AB 131. This represents 1 percent of Cal Grant's total $1.4 billion funding, according to the governor's office.
Both Assembly bills were authored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles.