The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 more students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of a new bill signed into law last week by California Governor Jerry Brown. Cal Grants, as the name suggests, are grants funded by the State of California to help students fund higher education. The California Department of Finance estimates that the cost to California for these 2,500 more students receiving Cal Grants will be approximately $14.5 million.
To get a sense of the Cal Grant program, here is a statement on the Cal Grant web site describing the type of grant funds to which California students have access. "With a Cal Grant you can get up to $12,192 a year to pay for college expenses at any qualifying California college, university or career or technical school in California. Depending on which Cal Grant you get, the money can be used for tuition, room and board, even books and pencils. The best part is, it's yours to keep and you don't have to pay it back."
The bill in question, AB131, signed by Governor Brown on October 8, 2011 was a follow up to AB130, which was signed in July 2011. Both AB130 and AB 131 together make up the California Dream Act. The 2500 additional students to be supported by the Cal Grant are indeed "top California students who are on the path to citizenship," as stated in the Governor's press release. This AB131 will allow these California students to apply for college financial aid. This is on top of the fact that under current law, undocumented students are able to pay resident tuition rates if they have graduated from a California high school and affirmed that they are in the process of applying to legalize their immigration status. Effective January 1, 2013, AB 131 will make this pool of students now eligible to apply for Cal Grants and other state aid.
In a written statement issued by the Governor's office, Brown states, "Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking…The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us," he said.
Many have argued that if out-of-country illegal immigrant students in California have access to grant funds and state aid, why do American out-of-state students not have similar benefits? Another relevant question is since these students may still be illegal immigrants when they graduate, how will they be expected to find legal employment?