California Dream Loan Program uplifts undocumented students

Archive/HIGHLANDER
Archive/HIGHLANDER

Undocumented students just got a huge lift in their ability to pay for college. On Sept. 28, Gov. Jerry Brown approved the DREAM Loan Act, which sets aside $9.2 billion in loan funding for California students without legal residency in the United States. Under this program, approximately 2,000 undocumented UC and CSU students will be able to borrow up to $4,000 and a maximum of $20,000 from UCs and CSUs, according to UC officials.

This act comes in response to the fact that undocumented students are ineligible for federal aid but are eligible to receive in-state and university aid. Undocumented students are also eligible for work study, private grants and scholarships.

According to the California legislature, the amount of funds given out to each undocumented student will be assessed by their financial need, and they will apply for the program via the Dream Act application. The deadline for each undocumented student to obtain assistance will be the same day Cal Grant applications are due, which is March 2.

“Giving undocumented students the same access to financial aid as other students can improve their chances of academic success and help them reach their dream of a college degree and a brighter future,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a press release. “By investing in our students, we are investing in California.”

The program is estimated to cost the state $6.7 million in its first two years, beginning July 1, 2015. After that, the UC campuses plan to have the DREAM Loan act program costs start to decline because the program will become self-sustaining by employing the repaid loans method. This will allow repaid loans to go into a pool for future loans, thus allowing funds that are repaid to go back out to other undocumented students who are granted loans. The principal, interest and fees from this program are expected to offset any administrative costs the program may incur.

Locally, UCR is making its own strides in aiding undocumented students on campus by planning to hire a new program coordinator specifically for students without legal residency by the end of October. Director of Chicano Student Programs Estella Acuna estimates that there are approximately 300 undocumented students at UCR right now, many of whom qualify for this loan program.

On campus, news of the loan program has had a mixed reaction with students like first-year Jonathan Dallas saying, “I don’t agree with the program because it only encourages more (undocumented students) to come, and they already have such a financial burden on our economy.”

When it came to the underlying issue of citizenship, third-year student Katherine Pollock did not feel that a person’s residency should affect their higher education goals. “I agree that undocumented students should be able to get financial aid to go to school, regardless of their citizenship,” expressed Pollock.

 

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