California university students without legal status will have more access to financial help for college after a new state law kicks in Jan. 1.
The California Dream Loan program will become available to University of California and California State University students starting in the fall. It adds one more funding option in a state where several polices already benefit immigrant students without legal status: A measure known as the California Dream Act allows them to apply for state financial aid such as grants and fee waivers; unlike in some other states, these students also qualify for cheaper in-state tuition rates.
But they still don't qualify for all the funding options available to U.S. citizens and legal residents - for example, federal financial aid. This creates a shortfall for many, who wind up staying longer in school in order to work or not finishing, said Democratic State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who sponsored the Dream Loan bill.
“We figured that last gap in terms of funding could come from a revolving loan program, which we established in the legislature this year," Lara said. "As students pay their loans back, the money would be made available for other students.”
Students who qualify may borrow up to $4,000 dollars per academic year, maxing out at $20,000 from a single campus. Funds will be made available by the time fall classes start, with students able to apply on a first-come basis through their individual university.
It's not clear just how many students will be eligible, Lara said. But individual universities are taking count. For example, an October estimate from UCLA tallied roughly 450 possible applicants on that campus, with perhaps more by the time the loans became available.
The loan program is being seeded with $10 million dollars, $6 million from the state general fund, Lara said, and the rest from the UC and CSU systems. The idea is for the program to eventually fund itself as loans are repaid.