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October 20, 2011

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California DREAMs come true

RELATED POSTS Half of the California DREAM is made a reality Activist to speak on undocumented immigrant education MCC holds DREAM Act discussion Obama’s plan will help grads with loans Student tuition income pass state funding for first time

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 131, also known as part of the California version of the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, on Oct.  8. The bill, which takes effect in January 2013, will allow undocumented students to receive state financial aid. It will apply to students who went to high school in California for three years and received a high school diploma or equivalent degree. Cal Poly director of financial aid and scholarships Lois Kelly said that when the law goes into effect somewhere between 50 and 100 students at Cal Poly will be effected. “There are definitely going to be some students who now qualify for state grant programs,” she said. Presently, undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid because they are unable to provide documentation required in the application form. Kelly said it is difficult to find out the number of undocumented students because this leads to a lack of applications from this demographic. “Currently, if they do indicate they are non-citizens, then the application is rejected, and nobody likes to fill it out knowing it’s going to be rejected,” she said. Republican Katcho Achadjian, who represents San Luis Obispo’s district in the California State Assembly, said in an email statement he did not support the bill because it did not meet the needs of the country or state.

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“As an immigrant myself, I have compassion for the students who will be impacted by AB 130 and 131,” he wrote. “Rather than continue with piecemeal legislation on a state-by-state basis, I believe the federal government must enact the type of immigration reform that is necessary to secure our borders, ensure that American businesses have access to the labor they need and provide opportunities for immigrants who follow the rules to legally enter the United States and pursue the American Dream.”

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Kelly said the bill will impact the Cal Poly campus by allowing students to receive the education and classes they need to graduate. “This should help some of the students perhaps make a more direct reaching of their goal: completing their education,” she said. “Which I think is going to be terrific for students, reaching their goal of completing their education in a shorter period of time, which I think is great.” Director of Student Academic Services (SAS) Susan Sparling said she agrees with Kelly and is in favor of the bill. She said it will have a positive impact on not just Cal Poly, but the state as a whole. “What we find is that if a person is allowed to go to school and graduate, their earning power and ability to contribute to taxes in the state of California is so much greater,” Sparling said. Undocumented students at Cal Poly will now have access to funds they deserve, Sparling said. She believes that giving individuals opportunities they would not otherwise have because of their immigration status is the most important thing the bill will do. “Students who have otherwise gone for 12 years of school in California, who are Cal Poly caliber, Cal Poly competitive, Cal Poly ready, they can opt to come to Cal Poly now,” Sparling said. “To me, that is the most significant change that will come to Cal Poly.”

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Previously, SAS’ Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) offered support to undocumented  residents just the same as it did to all students at Cal Poly. Under the new law, EOP will now also be able to give grants to these residents.

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“High-achieving students who might have otherwise chosen to stay at community college may choose to come to Cal Poly now,” Sparling said. But the bill does not go far enough in helping undocumented students, Sparling said. After graduation there is very little opportunity for them, and she believes this situation needs to be fixed. “It falls far short of what students need,” she said. “I know several students who don’t speak much Spanish, and if they do they are completely bilingual in Spanish and English, and they have no legal standing in the United States. The real challenge is that once students graduate, what do they do now?”

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The federal DREAM Act would allow for a path to citizenship for some undocumented students in the U.S. Sparling believes this also needs to be passed. Congresswoman Lois Capps, who represents San Luis Obispo in the U.S. House of Representatives, voted in favor of the act last December. She said in a statement that it does not make sense to deny students who were brought to the U.S. as minors the opportunity to further their education.

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Though the federal act was passed in the House of Representatives, the U.S. senate did not approve it. TAGS: AB 131, DREAM Act, featured, Katcho Achadjian, Sean McMinn, undocumented immigrant

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Sean McMinn is a journalism sophomore and Mustang Daily staff writer.

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California DREAMs come true  

Presently, undocumented students are ineligible for financial aid because they are unable to provide documentation required in the applicati...