California Dream Act Backers Look To The Next Step

Sharon Rieger's picture

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law giving thousands of illegal immigrant college students access to private scholarship funds, immigrant advocates said they are aiming for a far bigger prize: California public grants.

"It was a good step forward, but the glass is still half-empty," said Ivan Ceja, 19, a Fullerton community college student who was illegally brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a baby.

At a Los Angeles town hall gathering Monday, Brown signed into law AB 130, which will allow undocumented students who qualify for reduced in-state tuition to apply for $88 million in private scholarship funds administered by the University of California, Cal State University and the California Community Colleges. A more significant companion bill, AB 131, would grant access to public scholarships and grants but is bottled up in the Legislature. Both are part of the California Dream Act effort.

College officials say they do not know exactly how many illegal immigrants pay the lower in-state tuition or will qualify for the private scholarship funds. UC estimates that about 80 undocumented students could qualify for the aid. Overall, about 41,000 students who are illegal immigrants or out-of-state students qualify for the reduced tuition benefit, less than 1% of enrollment in the three systems. To be eligible, students must be California high school graduates and meet other criteria.

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