UC students campaigned last week to encourage 39th District State Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes to pass a bill granting undocumented students equal access to state financial aid at California public universities.
Students made calls to Fuentes, the state legislature Appropriations Committee Chair, to request his help in passing AB 131 — a legislative component of the California Dream Act — when it comes before the commission early this week. The California Dream consists of Acts AB 131 and AB 130 and aims to provide financial aid for undocumented students unable to afford college.
According to External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Office’s statewide organizing director Elysse Madarang, a third-year global studies major, UC Students Association volunteers have organized similar events to help pass the bill.
“UCSB students have lobbied at the local, state and national levels to help these assembly bills,” Madarang said. “A recent campaign done through the EVPSA Office in conjunction with the University of California Student Association was a Dream Act card campaign with which we were able to turn in over 10,000 cards to state representatives in support of the California Dream Act AB 130 and 131.”
Although an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 undocumented students graduate from California high schools each year, only an estimated five to ten percent go on to pursue higher education, Madarang said.
Madarang, who is coordinating UCSB’s campaign involvement, said the legislation would provide greater educational opportunities for qualified students.
“AB 131 would allow eligible AB 540 undocumented students access to any financial aid program run by the state of California, including student loans,” Madarang said in an e-mail. “This can help the financial burden, especially since our tuition fees are constantly rising.”
University of California President Mark Yudof issued a statement supporting the bill to encourage students’ academic efforts regardless of their immigration status.
Third-year sociology major Jordan Corey said undocumented students deserve an equal share of the state’s financial aid.
“I do not believe that U.S. citizens hold the right to turn undocumented students away who are desperately seeking an opportunity at the American dream that we were all blessed to receive,” Corey said. “If students have done the work and are eligible to be admitted, then they deserve the right to an education.”