Sitting in front of her computer, Katharine Gin, executive director of a nonprofit that supports undocumented students, watched as excited comments flooded her Facebook news feed.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the Dream Act on Saturday, and undocumented students are reacting online.
Gin read off the updates: “Dreams not deferred anymore,” “Now I can go to grad school,” “Now my life matters.”
“So many of them are not used to getting good news,” said Gin, of Educators for Fair Consideration. “There’s this disbelief that the governor would actually take a stand for them.”
After weeks of speculation, Governor Jerry Brown signed the second half of the California Dream Act, opening up federal aid to undocumented students pursuing a higher education.
“I can say it’s an extraordinary moment in history,” said Katherine Gelardi, student outreach representative at City College of San Francisco.
“The students are very much in support of education for all.”
In a press release issued Saturday morning, the governor said, “Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking. The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”
Assembly Bill 131 is the final chapter of the California Dream Act. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, all undocumented students attending a state university will be eligible to to receive Cal Grants as well as fee waivers in the community college system. Cal Grants can help qualifying students with up to $12,192 for college expenses.
Leticia Silva, a counselor at City College’s Latino Services Network, said this is a huge relief for students she works with.
“To know that this is going to happen, that they can transfer [from City College] and get financial aid, it will be a huge help for them,” Silva said.
The governor’s endorsement of AB 131 follows the recent approval of AB 130, signed in late July, which makes undocumented students eligible to receive private aid in order to fund their education.
Undocumented students have been paying in-state tuition since 2001, when Gov. Gray Davis signed AB 540. The bill made it possible for these students to pay the California rate if they completed a minimum of three years of high school within the state of California, attended an institution of higher education and signed an affidavit of intent to legalize their residency status. Since then, lobbyists have been advocating for the passage of the Dream (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act on both the state and national level.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee applauded Brown’s decision.
“I applaud the courage of our Governor and the State Legislature to take solid steps to remove barriers to higher education and help students succeed,” Lee said in a statement.
According to the California Department of Finance, AB 131 will make approximately 2,500 students eligible to receive Cal Grants and fee waivers. The cost of extending Cal Grants to AB 540 students is expected be $14.5 million.
Although current high school students may not have access to those funds for college, Gin said, the option of graduate school is now possible.
She read off more of those Facebook status updates.
“This my favorite governor ever!” “I love Governor Brown!”
“Their existence has been validated and publicly recognized,” Gin said. “Finally someone’s not telling them to fend for themselves.”
In September, Mission Local spoke with City College students who will be impacted by this legislation.