Monday, October 6, 2008

Governor Vetoes DREAM Act For Third Straight Year

Fernando Romero

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the California DREAM Act on Tuesday, Sept. 30, a bill which would have allowed undocumented AB 540 college students to apply for need-based financial aid at public colleges and universities.

SB 1301, the California DREAM Act, proposed by Sen. Gil Cedillo (D - Los Angeles) had been brought to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk twice before, in 2006 and 2007. The governor vetoed both previous bills on the basis that such legislative measures would take financial aid resources and other programs away from U.S. citizens.

In his veto message on Sept. 30, Gov. Schwarzenegger cited the state’s faltering economy as the focal reason for vetoing it.

“I share the author’s goal of making affordable education available to all California students, but given the precarious fiscal condition the state faces at this time, it would not be prudent to place additional demands on our limited financial aid resources as specified in this bill,” he stated.

The DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act would have made undocumented AB 540 students eligible for grants, scholarships, work-study and loan programs administered only through the campuses. Under AB 540, undocumented students are exempt from out-of-state tuition or international tuition.

Assembly Bill 540 students are those who have met specific requirements to be eligible for in-state tuition. AB 540 students are those who have attended a California high school for three or more years, graduated from a California high school or received a GED and agreed to apply for lawful immigration status as soon as they are eligible to do so.

The amended and filtered bill, SB 1301, did not include the Cal Grant program, which is the largest source of California state aid to college students.

The bill focused on the monies and financial aid allocated to by the state and administered by individual institutions. Each college and university is allocated a certain amount of aid and monies from the state and is free to implement it freely; including university grants, loans and work study programs.

The bill was also exclusive of any federal financial aid administered by the state and would not have put a strain of the state‘s budget as it used monies already being allocated to individual institutions. SB 1301 was written to not use additional state funds or create a new state program to fund it.

Because of the governor’s veto, the three systems of higher education in California, the UC, CSU and CCC will continue to regard undocumented students as ineligible for need-based financial aid.

The veto follows a recent state appellate court ruling that AB 540 was in violation of federal law. There are several AB 540 students at Cal State University Long Beach, and hundreds more throughout the CSU, UC and CCC systems. The veto of the bill is a blow to the estimated hundreds of students who continue to struggle to pay the high cost of rising tuition and stay in school. ¶

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