State bill proposed to help certain undocumented students obtain work-study

Ryan Serpa/Staff
Work-study jobs on campus range from foodservice in one of CalDining's many locations on campus to checking residents in and out of the Residence Halls. Solomon Nwoche, who graduated this past winter but took advantage of the option to extend his work-study position for an extra semester, attends the Moffitt Front Desk.

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A law that would provide state funding for certain undocumented students who don’t qualify for work-study opportunities under federal law was introduced in the state legislature Thursday.

AB 206 would establish the California DREAM Work-Study Program for undocumented students at UC, CSU and community college campuses eligible for in-state tuition under AB 540. Under the law, California’s Student Aid Commission would match 100 percent of the cost of work-study grants for students completing work at UC, CSU and community college campuses and cover 50 percent of work at private or nonprofit colleges for qualifying students.

Assemblymember Jose Medina, D-Riverside, who co-introduced the bill with Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, said he thinks work-study is an extremely valuable program for college students.

“Not only does it help with financial aid,” Medina said, “but it helps students get experience in different areas.”

Since 2001, California’s AB 540 has allowed undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at UC and CSU schools. In 2011, those same students were allowed to qualify for financial aid.

Medina said he was proud of the state’s legislative efforts to support undocumented students despite the fate of similar national legislation, the original DREAM act, which failed to pass.

“In the absence of Washington, D.C., and Congress acting, I think we have shown and shown again that we in California are willing to act and do what we can to make our institutions open to all residents,” Medina said.

Some UC campuses currently offer institutional work-study options, such as UC Berkeley’s Director’s Work Study program, which attempt to mirror the benefits of federal work-study for undocumented students.

Ivan Villasenor Madriz, a UC Berkeley junior and undocumented student who has a job with the Director’s Work Study program, said such opportunities are a necessary means for students in his situation. Executive orders that benefit undocumented students, such as the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, could be undone by the next presidential administration, he said, which would make paying off loans unrealistic.

“(The new bill) most certainly helps,” Villasenor Madriz said. “I most likely wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the working opportunity.”

He said AB 206 may provide the most significant changes at campuses where institutional support is not as strong as at UC Berkeley.

Meng So, director of the campus’s Undocumented Student Program, said that in regards to undocumented student support, UC Berkeley is “ahead of the game.”

“I think UC Berkeley has done tremendous work, but by no means can we rest on our laurels,” So said, adding that undocumented students could receive more support with housing security and while in graduate school. “But (the new legislation) is a step in the right direction.”

The bill will likely be heard before a committee in March.

Contact Alex Barreira at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @abarreira_dc.sue

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Ivan Villasenor Madriz.

A previous version of this article also identified Villasenor Madriz as a sophomore. In fact, he is a junior.