Illegal Immigrants Eligible for State-Funded Scholarships: California Dream or Fiscal Nightmare?

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law the second part of what is being referred to as the California Dream Act. This installment makes students who are in the state, presumably the country, illegally, eligible to receive financial aid. The first part of the Act made the students eligible for privately funded scholarships, and now makes the students eligible for publicly funded scholarships.

Illegal immigrants who can prove the relevant length of residency within the state, such as through attendance at in-state high schools, are already eligible for the reduced in-state resident tuition rate. This law means that they are now eligible to apply for coveted scholarships and grants to attend one of the best public university systems in the country.

California Writing Further Checks it Can't Cash?

Regarding this issue, I've recently heard remarks surrounding whether California can afford to make additional promises that it can't keep. While I'm not certain whether I agree with this legislation, I am certain that it does not create additional funding promises. In other words, it doesn't make the proverbial pie bigger, it just redefines whom may receive a cut of it. Instead of committing the state to granting additional financial aid for struggling students, it merely makes the pool of potential applicants larger.

On the one hand, this may serve as a reminder to students who are eligible to apply for aid, but on the other hand, it can be a somewhat uneasy feeling to know that the process is more competitive than it already is. Perhaps it is better that the funding set aside for furthering education of Californians is being used for its intended purpose. The debate centers on whether we are comfortable supporting a system that benefits those who are here illegally over those who are here legally. Granted, any student who graduates from a California public school, and remains in the state, will be a productive citizen, something unsettling remains.

Community Colleges Likely to See Greatest Impact

While the language of the bill is somewhat cryptic, it appears as though students who qualify, according to certain prescribed income and application standards, may have tuition, referred to as "fees" in the text, waived completely. At the very least, illegal immigrants will be able to qualify for in-state tuition. It seems ironic that community colleges have been the only remaining holdout in the fee structure for state universities since, according to the article, the community college system has the largest amount of illegal immigrants out of the three systems. Thus, it is likely to be the students at community colleges, and not in the more prestigious UC system, that will face the potential complications of impacted class schedules and the other potential obstacles that increased enrollment can bring.

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