Students and UC workers’ union members from across the state gathered in Sacramento on Monday in support of AB 131 — the second half of the California DREAM Act — which would enable students without full citizenship or permanent residency to apply for state financial aid.
Introduced last January by Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo, the California DREAM Act consists of two parts, the first of which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in late July and gives undocumented students access to institutional financial aid. The Act’s second portion was passed by the State Assembly on August 31 and currently awaits Brown’s approval. The state of California allocated over $700 million in Cal Grants last year and is expected to expand on this figure in upcoming years as more students seek access to higher education.
UC Student Association President Claudia Magaña said the bill’s economic impact will not be significant due to the small number of eligible students.
“The current economic situation could be used as an excuse to not [pass the bill] since students will be given more Cal Grants, but [qualifying] students are such a small portion of the population,” Magana said. “There are really not that many of them…and there are more in the community colleges which cost a lot less.”
UCSA Organizing and Communications Director Darius Kemp said the bill has garnered extensive support from the higher education community, as evidenced by the upbeat atmosphere at Monday’s demonstration.
“This is a humongous coalition,” Kemp said. “Literally millions of Californians support this bill so we are asking and urging the governor to sign this bill as soon as possible.”
Many students are expecting Brown’s continued backing as he voiced support for the bill on the campaign trail, Magaña said.
“A lot of students voted for [Brown] this past election because they felt he had support for these issues,” Magaña said. “Students have been very desperate for a governor who will deal with students.”
According to Cedillo’s legislative aide Luis Quinonez, many are uncertain what to expect from the governor despite the positive energy displayed in Sacramento on Monday.
“People are very excited and energized, but with a little bit of caution,” Quinonez said. “Brown supports the concept of the bill but he hasn’t commented on the details of it, so students are cautiously optimistic.”
Brown has until October 9 to veto the bill directly before it may become law without his signature, Quinonez said.