DREAMers could soon have an easier time paying for college in California.
The heads of both the University of California and California State University systems — which together serve around 700,000 students — called Wednesday for the state to offer student loans to some undocumented young people.
Undocumented immigrants in California are already better situated than DREAMers in states like Texas, because they are eligible for state financial aid, scholarships and in-state tuition rates. But they are not eligible for federal financial aid, which can leave students and families struggling to fill in the gaps.
A proposed student loan program could help compensate. The program would cost the state and schools around $9 million the first year, the two university systems estimated, and could help more than 2,000 undocumented students.
UC President Janet Napolitano, formerly the head of the Department of Homeland Security, told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday that it only makes sense to provide admitted undocumented students the same benefits as their documented peers. Right now, proponents of the bill argue, they can be forced to withdraw from school if they cannot make ends meet. Napolitano’s endorsement of the idea comes as she continues to face criticism for her role in deporting undocumented immigrants as part of the Obama administration.
The committee voted 5-0 to approve the measure, with two Republicans withholding their votes and arguing that immigration reform is a federal, not state, issue. The proposal will now go to the Appropriations Committee, but it has faced little opposition so far and the bill's progression looks promising.
Senator Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who serves a largely Hispanic constituency in Los Angeles County, introduced the idea. He wants state funding for the new loans to be matched and then handled by each individual campus, which he hopes will help minimize default rates.
“We invest in California students from an early age and many of them have done what we’ve asked them to do: work hard, study and pursue a higher education,” Lara said in a statement. “Continuing to invest in our future and ensuring that all students have access to the funding resources they need to succeed should be a top priority.”
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.