California Governor Jerry Brown approved the California DREAM Loan Program on Sept 28, providing student loans for undocumented students from the University of California and California State University.

To be initiated in the 2015-16 academic year, the California DREAM Loan Program, or Senate Bill 1210, will require participating campuses to determine loan amounts offered to students per campus, subject to “enumerated specifications.” Students can receive DREAM loans after meeting specific requirements, including that the student be exempt from paying nonresident tuition, among other requirements adopted by the UC Regents.

The program has an initial funding amount of $9.2 million in funds, which permits each student who qualifies for the program to receive $4,000 a year and $20,000 in total, according to a statement by bill author Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Huntington Park/Long Beach. Participating institutions will contribute $2.3 million, and $6.9 million will come from state funds, the statement said.

According to Lara, all students should be able to maximize their educational pursuits, which will in turn benefit the state economy.

“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 stated in a press release. “If we’re serious about strengthening our economy then we must remove obstacles for our future workforce when they’re close to the graduation finish line.”

Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships Director Michael Miller said the DREAM Loan Program will have a positive outcome for current and future undocumented students attending UCSB.

“Student loans are an essential part of college affordability and DREAM scholars need to have access to both loans and work opportunities,” Miller said. “Without student loans, students are forced to go without essential items such as food, books and et cetera.”

Miller also said the DREAM program gives undocumented students on campus an equal opportunity to succeed.

“All students should have access to the resources they need to attend college.” Miller said. “By having loans, students can focus on studying and being productive members of the UCSB community, rather than working odd jobs and stressing.”

According to Miller, who urged students to practice caution when receiving loans, the average student graduates with approximately $20,000 in student loan debt.
“Any debt comes with some concern,” Miller said. “All students need to budget carefully and only borrow what they need.”

Communications Director for the California State Senate Jesse Melgar said the DREAM program will assist undocumented students who often face challenges preventing them from academic success.

“Some are forced to pick up two or three jobs,” Melgar said. “Some are forced to not graduate on time or graduate at all.”

According to Melgar, the DREAM program will help undocumented students who have historically struggled to succeed to become “the students who were salutatorian, valedictorian, with 4.0 GPAs and who are, by every measure, top students of the state.”

A version of this story appeared on page 3 of the Thursday,  October 16, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.