The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Students urge governor to support Dream Act

Students, faculty members and employees of California’s public universities may contact Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office today to urge him to sign a bill that would allow undocumented students to apply for non-competitive state financial aid.

Bills have 30 days to pass legislation, and Schwarzenegger must make a final decision regarding this bill, the California Dream Act, by Oct. 12. The California State Student Association is encouraging those in support of the bill to contact the governor’s office, as he’ll be making a decision sometime within the next two weeks.

The California State Senate website shows that the California Dream Act, authored by Sen. Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles, would allow U.S. citizens and undocumented AB-540 students to apply for community college fee waivers and Cal Grants, which are non-competitive forms of financial aid.

“The Dream Act addresses the fact that there’s a portion of the Cal Grant not being utilized,” said Adam Haverstock, president of the Associated Students at CSUN. “Just because they’re undocumented students doesn’t mean they’re not looking to better themselves, and financial aid can help them do that.”

If signed into law, the bill would provide a six-year path to permanent residency and citizenship for individuals brought to the United States as undocumented children if they graduate from high school and continue on to college or military service.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that more than 25,000 undocumented students graduate from California high schools per year. These students face a unique challenge in securing a college education, as they are ineligible for any federal grants, loans and many scholarships.

“The financial aid situation is ridiculous,” said Kozue Sasaki, a CSUN international alumna. “People come from across the world to study, and then they find they aren’t eligible for any financial aid or government assistance because of where they’re from.”

Restrictions on access to financial aid aren’t just limited to undocumented students. In California, the AB-540 act designates students at public universities as eligible for in-state financial aid only if they have graduated from a California high school or have attended that high school for at least three years.

“AB-540 is not just for undocumented students,” said Sarah Kim, a UCLA alumna international student, who has contributed to a documentary about undocumented students. “It also includes some international students and a few others.”

“When I started working on the documentary, I didn’t realize there were so many people with so many different situations. The governor’s reaction to the bill made it sound like the state would never contribute to the educations of these people,” Kim said. “It’s really sad, and it comes down to money. It always comes down to money.”

When AB-540 passed in 2001, the main compromise for the bill to pass was the removal of the in-state financial aid qualification. The Dream Act would allow students to qualify for in-state financial aid, giving them the same entitlement and access to non-competitive financial aid funds as U.S. citizens.

Schwarzenegger vetoed last year’s version of the bill, as he felt it was unfair to allow undocumented students to be eligible for aid when there isn’t enough aid for U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Olgalilia Ramirez, director of governmental relations for the California State Student Association, said, “One of its misconceptions is that (undocumented students) would be taking away from California’s financial aid.”

“I believe that if they can qualify and apply for financial aid, they should be eligible,” Ramirez said.

“The legislation has taken those concerns into consideration, and only non-competitive financial aid would be offered to undocumented students,” Haverstock said. “I encourage students to call the governor today and support the Dream Act.”

But Schwarzenegger has yet to make a decision regarding the California Dream Act.

“The governor considers many different factors when deciding which bills to pass,” said Gena Grebitus, deputy press secretary in the office of the governor. “The governor has not yet taken a position on this piece of legislation.”

Those who’d like to support the California Dream Act may contact the governor’s office today by phone, e-mail, or fax. It’s recommended they state where they are from, and that they specifically support the California Dream Act, SB-1.

The phone number for the governor’s office in Sacramento is (916) 445-2841. The office’s fax number is (916) 445-4633. An e-mail form is available online at CSUN students may want to contact the Los Angeles district office at (213) 897-0322 and via fax at (213) 897-0319.

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