The D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program, aimed at providing financial aid to undocumentated UC students, will begin distributing federal funding to students this academic year

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The D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program will provide undocumented UC students with federal financial aid for the first time. Photo Courtesy of

The University of California is rolling out its D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program this academic year, providing an initial $5 million in federal aid to undocumented students across the UC system.

The aid will be distributed to 3,000 undocumented students and will include more than approximately $350,000 to UCSB students. The money comes equally from the California state general fund, and UC funds and will be distributed to campuses based on need.

Habiba Simjee, Undocumented Student Services Coordinator at UCSB and Undocumented Legal Services Counsel, said the program was a significant step toward addressing the financial struggles of undocumented students.

“The D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program is an important step in addressing the significant funding gap for undocumented students who wish to pursue their education at UC schools,” Simjee said. “It’s been very challenging and heartbreaking to hear from students who have to withdraw or drop out because they’re unable to make ends meet, particularly when we consider the cost of living in Santa Barbara.”

Michael Miller, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at UCSB, said the goal of the program is to make education more affordable for undocumented students.

“The goal of all financial aid funding is to ensure access and affordability for all UCSB students,” Miller said. “This loan program will be one more resource our D.R.E.A.M. Scholars have available to them, and, given the work and loan commitment all UCSB students assume while they are here, it is going to play a huge part in their ability to finance their education.”

The D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program, proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano, was passed in 2014, but funding was not available for students until the current academic school year. Miller said the program helps level the playing field.

“The creation of the D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program is a big step forward for D.R.E.A.M. Scholars across California, and it gets us closer to making sure they have the same resources available to them that other students have,” Miller said.

Miller also made it clear that the University can do more for undocumented students.

“I am very proud of our campus, because our student leaders pushed for this program and their hard work paid off,” Miller said. “This program is a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said the program will help ease the financial burdens facing the undocumented student community.

“The overall goal of the D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program is to help undocumented students who have limited financial options afford a UC education,” Doan said. “It helps alleviate the burden for undocumented UCSB students, many of whom are often forced to take semesters off or take outside jobs to offset the cost of tuition.”

According to Miller, the average UCSB student graduates with about $21,000 in student loan debt.

“Student loans are widely used by students to pay for education-related expense like tuition and fees, room and board and books and supplies,” Miller said. “The D.R.E.A.M. Loan program will help eligible students meet these expenses.”

Under current laws, undocumented students who graduate from high schools in California can apply for state and university aid, but their status as undocumented students prevents them from obtaining federal aid.

Ricardo Leon, second-year computer engineering major, said he expects the D.R.E.A.M. Loan Program will help offset the lack of federal funding.

“The program will help [undocumented students] because they’re not eligible for federal aid, so they don’t get the Cal Grant, and they also can’t get loans through the federal government,” Leon said. “Having the government give them some loan money would be really helpful.”

Leon said the program would help undocumented students focus more on their education and less on their finances.

“A lot of undocumented students have to get jobs in order to get that extra funding and make ends meet,” Leon said. “I think a loan would help them focus more on their studies.”

A version of this story appeared on p. 5 of the Thursday, February 4, 2016 edition of the Daily Nexus.