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Undocumented Students Deserve Equal Access to University Education

My friend Ernesto is an undocumented AB 540 student at UCLA. He grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from a California high school, was the student body president for Rio Hondo Community College and has never been in any trouble. The only trouble Ernesto gets into is debating with his friends how he prefers Lil’ Kim over Nicky Minaj.
Now a fourth-year English major with dreams of going to grad school in public policy and a career as a public servant, Ernesto’s road to attaining a higher education has not been easy.

[media-credit name=”Ian Sanders” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Ernesto, along with tens of thousands of other students in California, faces an unjust two-tiered financial aid system that creates insurmountable barriers to pursuing higher education. Despite the fact that Ernesto graduated from a California high school, has lived here most of his life and has beat the odds to become a UCLA student, he is denied any access to state grants, scholarships, subsidized loans and institutional aid.

As students know all too well, our fees at UCs, CSUs and community colleges have skyrocketed over the past few years. Fees at the UCs are now well over $10,000, and total cost can easily surpass $30,000. Like all other students in higher education, undocumented students struggle to afford these fees and costs, yet also have no access to any systematic financial support.

For Ernesto, these costs have made pursuing an education nearly impossible. It took him four years at a community college to get to UCLA, working long hours to save up enough for tuition, and has had to take a number of quarters off since coming to UCLA to be able to deal with the costs.

While Ernesto has found a way to stay in school, countless others have been forced to drop out. Further, because of this inequitable system, the tens of thousands of undocumented students who graduate from California high schools each year may feel that the dream of higher education will always be beyond their reach. With California and the nation facing a recession, we cannot afford to curtail the dreams of so many of our talented young people.

It is because of fellow students like Ernesto — a student and Californian who is our friend and colleague — that the UC Student Association has chosen financial aid for undocumented students as one of our top campaign priorities this year.

The California DREAM Act, also known as AB 130 and AB 131, would go a long way towards fundamentally fixing this unfair system. Under the current policies, undocumented students pay into the financial aid pot, just like all other students, but are unable to access it. If the California DREAM Act were to pass, undocumented students who graduate from California high schools will be able to access financial aid at UCs, CSUs and community colleges. No special treatment, just the same access to compete for aid that is available to all other California students.

Right now, students at every UC statewide are collecting thousands of postcards addressed to Governor Brown asking him to sign the California DREAM Act this year. We will be delivering these postcards to him and to the legislature at the annual UCSA Student Lobby Conference later this month.

The proposed cuts to higher education in Brown’s budget will have a devastating impact on quality, access and affordability for all students in higher education.

UCSA opposes these cuts and will continue voicing our opposition to the governor and state legislature. These cuts will also have a particularly sharp impact on undocumented students. Even during tough economic times, we cannot shirk the responsibility to do what is right.

As students, we always seem to be the fallback option for who should bear the burden of the state’s fiscal ills. The more we are attacked, the stronger our solidarity and the louder our voices will become. We demand an educational system that is affordable and fair for all of our students. The future of our state depends on it.

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26 Responses to Undocumented Students Deserve Equal Access to University Education

  1. B-Bain

    April 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I am a UCSB alumni – graduated in 1999. The whole illegal immigrants receiving financial aid thing was not a hot button issue in my tenure at SB. This particular article makes me sick to my stomach. These illegal immigrants (notice how I don’t use the term “undocumented”) should be glad that they are not being deported. But no, they have the nerve to want free tuition money too? Really??? These illegal imigrants are all breaking the law and need to stop bitching and complaining. There are tons of people who don’t get any financial aid. My parents paid my tuition and I didn’t receive a dime of financial aid. Great idea – let’s reward criminal behavior by giving them free money. I don’t think the Mexican government or University system gives out free money to Americans who go down there illegally to study? Am I right? Utterly riddiculous. Especially with the tuition increases – let’s give less aid to citizens of this country so criminals can have some of the money. Makes a lot of sense. Calling it unfair – absolute and total bullshit. And don’t call me a racist becuase I’m not.

  2. justsayn

    March 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    You missed my point. Although I mispoke, to be more specific, it is a fact that California colleges accept more out-of-state tuition, foreign visa students and, up until November of last year when CA courts ruled that undocumented students can pay in-state tuition, undocumented students because the higher tuition they received helped to offset the budget cuts to colleges. It is a fact that our colleges are highly impacted so much so that students cannot get into classes and it takes them longer than 4 years to finish a 4 year degree not to mention that it is so competitive to get into college you need almost a 4.0 gpa. My point is that if this bill passes there will be a huge influx of undocumented students competing for financial aid with students who are citizens who have the same dreams as yourself. We all have that dream and feel that we need to put our citizens who are here legally first. Save the college seats and the financial aid for those who are citizens. Financial aid is mostly determined by financial need and probably most undocumented students would have priority applying for financial aid since their economic status would most likely be without any income since they do not pay income taxes and that leaves the rest of us who are law abiding citizens who report an income to FAFSA at a disadvantage to compete for those limited financial aid dollars. Therefore, those who legally work and pay income taxes to help pay for college are at a disadvantage. Just sayn that most likely the result of this bill if passed would allocate most of the financial aid dollars to undocumented students. California is broke with high unemployment. We can’t afford to be bleeding hearts anymore. I voted for Brown and I am against this bill. By the way, I cannot believe the high number of racial slurs and slanderous comments from those who support this bill against those who voice their opinion against this bill. This is not the American way! We all have a right to an opinion without bigotry and name calling. I am against this bill and proud to be an American with the constitutional right to free speech. Before those who are for the Dream Act start throwing racial slurs, start respecting our freedoms and more tolerance against those who do not agree with you.

    • Kansas

      March 21, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      I definitely agree with you. I came out to UCSB as a freshman from Kansas. Neither of my parents were employed, but I had some money saved up to come to school here. Plus I received federal financial aide which helped. I worked the entire time I was in school at UCSB, paying California taxes on my income. When I couldn’t afford to continue my second year at a rate of an out of state student, I took a year off, and worked. Payed into the California tax system. Became a California citizen. Have voted in every California election to this date. Unfortunately after a year off of school and paying taxes, they told me that I still do not nor will I qualify for instate tuition. I had to leave California and go finish my schooling in Kansas. It costs the university I believe close to 40,000 for every student that goes to it. Students here on visas from other countries pay the full tuition. Students here from other states pay the full tuition minus what the federal government pays, and students who have paid taxes in California pay the full tuition minus the portion that the federal government and the California government pay. These portions come from our taxes. If you have a job and pay taxes, part of your taxes are used to pay for these schools. I was told that I did not qualify for instate tuition even though I paid taxes in California for two years. Non taxpaying citizens should not receive instate tuition either. I have nothing against them receiving financial aide from tuition, but they should still be required to pay the full 40,000 tuition. Fighting for rights for undocumented citizens is an unjust battle. They are here ILLEGALLY. They broke a law. They don’t pay taxes which is how all of our social projects are funded. Fighting for them to be equal to tax paying legal citizens is unjust, and then name calling those who disagree is arrogant and ignorant. 100% of attention and focus should be on determining a way to document every single person who is hear, and offer them a means to citizenship which would them make them eligible for all of the benefits of being an american. It doesn’t matter if you live here, or if you consider here to be your home, what matters is if others do. I don’t agree with the immigration laws, but I also don’t agree with rewarding those who break the law.

  3. EquityinEducation

    March 1, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Justsayn–you are just as misinformed as everybody else. The DREAM Act is for UNDOCUMENTED ‘AB540’ STUDENTS.

    AB540 students pay IN-STATE TUITION, not “full” tuition like out-of-state students.
    As someone who has served on a UC Admissions and Undergraduate Relations Committee, I can assure you that by accepting more out-of-state students in NO WAY HARMS THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR IN-STATE STUDENTS TO THE UC.
    Despite these changes, the yield rate has STAYED THE SAME!

    Governor Brown has openly said that he will sign this bill.

  4. justsayn

    March 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

    The reality is that California cannot continue to afford to educate US citizens let alone illegal immigrants. The only reason that the UC colleges accepted so many illegal and out-of-state students is because they paid full tuition to fund our underbudgeted, struggling college system and thereby taking seats from CA citizens to attend and overburdening our colleges with too many students. Now, if you say that all these students who would be paying full tuition no longer have to and then top it off by giving the undocumented students the maximum financial aid available due their economic status which will inevitably be poverty then our fledgling college system will fail for lack of mone and the only financial aid funds would be directed to undocumented students because there will not be enough financial aid or college seats left over for US citizens due to a huge influx of illegal students attending college in California. Governor Brown I urge you to veto this bill.

  5. EquityinEducation

    March 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Undocumented students deserve an education. Period.
    Many of you are misinformed about what the DREAM act is.
    AB 130 would give undocumented students the right to access INSTITUTIONAL Aid.
    Every single student that pays for tuition, whether it is funded by grants or aid, has a portion of their money RETURNED TO FINANCIAL AID. Why is it OK for undocumented students to contribute to this fund, but not be able to draw from it? THAT IS UNFAIR!

    “ExportErnesto”, you are an absolute idiot. Get a life. Undocumented did not choose to immigrate to this country, and over the years, they have grown to know California as their only home. Yet, California denies many of them an education. You are a shame to society.

  6. YesToEducation

    February 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    As I stated before…YES TO EDUCATION and No to FREE TUITION.

  7. education12

    February 24, 2011 at 8:22 am

    I think that education is important so therefor no matter legal status or not who ever is willing to further their education should receive the help

    • America #1

      February 24, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Try University of Guanajuato.

    • Astonishing

      February 24, 2011 at 11:04 am

      The logic here is laughable. How about this wish list.

      I think that having a nice house is so important that anyone willing to live in one is entitled to free money to buy one.

      I think that having nice clothes are so important that anyone willing to wear them is entitled to free money to buy them.

      I think that having a really nice car is important that anyone willing to drive one is entitled to free money to buy one.

      U.S. citizens pay for college unless they have a terrific excuse. Illegals need to get that message fast. Or better yet, illegals need to get out of town and stop looking for hand-outs.

      • Prabhu

        December 23, 2012 at 5:00 am

        It depends.Public uneitrsieivs do not offer financial aid to international students so while they’re cheaper in real dollars, they may be harder to reach.Private schools are more expensive, but no, they do NOT tend to have different tuition costs for domestic vs international students. Moreover, they can offer financial aid (grants, loans).Private religious schools tend to be less expensive (although this is not always the case).To give you specific figures, at top private schools (college uneitrsieivs) the cost can be as high as $35,000/year. Was this answer helpful?

  8. Export Ernesto

    February 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    My dad immigrated to this country legally in ’92, pursuing the American dream, working his way from a waiter to finally becoming an engineer. He’s paying for my full tuition with his hard earned cash because he makes just enough income for me to not qualify for any significant financial aid. However, the financial aid system does not take into consideration that my mother is unemployed, and that I have a brother who would like to one day go to college as well. But hey, I’m glad this illegal douchebag thinks he’s entitled to free money from hard-working taxpayers like my dad.

  9. YesToEducation

    February 23, 2011 at 7:51 am

    I don’t agree with giving them free tuition. I agree with giving them a legal status (for those who came here at the age of 15 years or younger) so they’d be able to work and support themselves. As for financial aid, I think applying for scholarships after being given a legal status, is more beneficial than giving out too much financial aid which will strain the other students who are already struggling. Then again, I’m from NY. I don’t understand how California works. But from what I’ve noticed (nation-wide), there are jobs that no citizen wants to do, but an undocumented immigrant would do it in a heart beat in order to support himself. Citizens and legal residents of this country take for granted the various amounts of academic opportunities that are out there. But the second someone suggests that we give undocumented student legal status, we start running and claiming these things. That’s just selfish. Undocumented students are asking for special treatment. They are asking for equal treatment and opportunities like the citizens and the residents receive. Don’t all of a sudden claim financial aid or free scholarship money now that undocumented students will be given rights. You should’ve claimed it before.

    • YesToEducation

      February 23, 2011 at 7:52 am

      Correction::Undocumented students aren’t asking for special treatment.

    • NoJobs

      February 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      Doing jobs no one wants to do describes the previous generation of illegal immigrants. These are their kids and this younger generation wants better jobs (which would be fine if they were in their home countries). Right now the U.S. has massive unemployment. It’s probably the worst time for illegal aliens to try push ahead of others in line. It’s very much like if I came to your home univited for dinner and complained bitterly that you have no food in your refrigerator.

      The laws making it difficult for illegals to be here are intentional. There are meant as a deterent to get illegal immigrants not to come or to leave. It’s like telling someone on the phone not to come over, but they come over anyway and then ask what’s for dinner. Then when you say I have nothing, they argue and scream “you racist pig who owes me because you gave my mother or father a job that was beneath them”.

      The illegal aliens need tuition, jobs, anger management therapy, and love. They need to go to their home countries and find those things.

      • YesToEducation

        February 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

        In that case pack up your family and migrate to your home country. Because no one here is not a true American. Everyone has a family heritage and tradition that is not American. Either British, Indian, Jewish or Russian. How about everyone just pack up and leave.

        • YesToEducation

          February 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm

          Because no one here is a true American

          • NoToRetardation

            February 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm

            The British, Indian, Jewish, and Russians had to apply for Visas before being allowed on American soil you imbecile. Jumping over a fence, not paying taxes, having no documentation, an American does not make.

            • YesToEducation

              March 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

              That’s my point. You have children you were brought here (under the age of consent) who’ve lived here for years because their parents didn’t do the right thing..why punish them because mommy or daddy didn’t decide to apply the proper way? Many reasons could’ve contributed to that (financial, legal, mental, who the hell knows)…Secondly, people who you AMERICANS consider immigrants aren’t just limited to latinos or people from the Caribbean…that includes all over the world you ignorant MORON.

  10. NoFreeTuition

    February 23, 2011 at 2:57 am

    All UC students want this? Really? Really?

    UC students who pay tuition and do not receive any financial aid (roughly 50%) have one-third of their tuition transferred to the financial aid pool.

    The more financial aid given out, the more tuition will increase.

    Is it fair for half the students to pay for the other half? Is it fair for paying students to have to borrow even more money as tuition sky-rockets because more people want a free ride?

    Don’t accept the limited picture of undocumented students that are being depicted. Undocumented students are anyone and everyone in the entire world (except U.S. citizens in the other 49 states) who would come to California. How easy is it for a 15 year-old to take a plane to California, go to high school (or get a GED) and have you pay for their college education? Why should California taxpayers and U.S. citizen youth pay for everyone else’s college education? Is their no limit to what these illegal immigrants think they are owed?

    • Marie

      February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

      I agree. We should not pass laws that encourage people to smuggle their 15 year olds into the U.S. to get free high school and then have the audacity to demand free college also while U.S. citizens have to take out loans to pay for it.

      • LatinosStandUp

        February 23, 2011 at 10:42 pm

        get a life. I don’t see you working in the fields and cleaning bathrooms and cleaning after all the fucking yard shit you can’t even pick up. Face it, Latinos are needed in this country and the least you people can do is give them a chance to be happy.

        P.S. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT AN EDUCATION UNLIKE OTHERS WHO JUST TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE “LEGAL” STATUS. For all i know, everybody in this country are illegals. Not just Latinos from Central and South America. EVERYONE IS..FROM ASIA, EUROPE, IRAN… WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT.

        • American's Stand UP

          February 24, 2011 at 12:25 am

          For all you know, you don’t.


          The physical cost of our education is based upon:

          1. Tuition from people who stem from families that are in a tax bracket that makes them ineligible for financial aid.

          2. Taxes from people who are successful enough to have to pay taxes or face jail time.

          3. Don’t make this a race issue please. Their are successful and impoverished people from every ethnicity in America. The owner of the 2004 world series champions Angels is Arte Moreno, a successful Latino Business Man. He pays tens of millions in taxes every year I am sure. Taxes that fund your and mine education

          – Each student (Tuition paying and otherwise, is subsidized to the degree of 15,000 per year) So, we really all are receiving a tangible benefit of 60,000+ over four years.

          BTW THANK YOU CALIFORNIA, and Cali tax payers that make it possible. Other 49 states don’t deserve the in-state rate precisely because they don’t pay into OUR system…

          Also consider, we have laws for a reason.

          You can’t (Shouldn’t) go to Sweden and DEMAND their social services…you’ll just look like a douche.

          You Are NOT allowed to seek employment in Australia or face deportation without appropriate visa’s ext. You can’t even visit for more than 2 weeks.

          It’s because as non-Ausis’s we don’t have a right to the benefits- paid for by Australian TAX dollars- nor should we ask for the TANGIBLE benefit.

          Your remark comes of as Marxist, and further, not everyone has a house cleaner; shit not everyone has a job than wants one.

        • NoJobGoHome

          February 24, 2011 at 3:12 am

          You must be joking if you think we need Latino immigrants for low-skilled jobs. Most U.S. born citizens clean bathrooms and yards everyday–their own!!! Outside of the border states, U.S. born citizens work in ALL job categories. What are you thinking?

          A general acceptance of illegal workers is over and most citizens are refusing to hire undocumented workers, even in border states. And no, that is not because U.S. citizens want to give up their better paying jobs to the illegal workers.

          It is a lie that Latino immigrants will do work U.S. citizens won’t do. Latino immigrants have merely pushed U.S. born citizens out of some job categories in some regions of the country.

          There is a reason for the laws against unlimited and ILLEGAL immigration. It leads to financial disaster! All the states with unchecked illegal immigration are in the worst financial shape. This is not a joke!!!

        • Export Ernesto

          February 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

          Stop throwing a tantrum you uneducated peasant. Also, it’s sad that you assume all Latinos are meant to work in fields and bathrooms. I know several Latinos who are studying to become businessmen and engineers. No one is denying Latinos the pursuit of happiness, but if they’re not here legally then no, they do not get to enjoy the same rights as Americans. And I don’t understand your idea that everyone in this country are illegal. Did you go full retard? Protip: If you crossed the American border without a visa, you’re here illegally. Not a hard concept to grasp.

          • EquityinEducation

            March 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm

            Get a life. Do some research about the bill. It’s an issue of education and human rights, not “illegal aliens.”
            Undocumented students, like I stated before, pay into RETURN TO AID and yet are not able to compete to draw from it. That is wrong and unfair. Period.
            Stop trying to punish these students for crimes that they did not choose to commit, you idiot.

            Stop pretending that race and socio-economic status are not related because you know “several latinos that are studying to become businessmen and engineers.”
            If they were not related, bills such as AB130/1 that are trying to address inequity in education would not exist.
            You attend UC Santa Barbara. People of color keep the daily functions of your school running just to make a living because of inequity.

            Now go get a life and stop being a detriment to society. You’re clearly misinformed and need an education.