UCOP announces initial $5 million in funding for California DREAM Loan Program

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For the first time, undocumented students throughout the UC system can receive financial aid, as the university officially announced Thursday an initial $5 million in funding for the California DREAM Loan Program.

The DREAM Loan Program was first authorized in September 2014 when Senate Bill 1210 passed, but funding for the program was not immediately finalized. Now, more than 3,000 undocumented undergraduate students of the UC and California State University systems will have access to a systemwide student loan program.

The initial $5 million for the DREAM program comes from equal contributions from the university and general state funds allocated to the university.

According to UC spokesperson Claire Doan, the nine undergraduate UC campuses will receive varying amounts of funding, based on the number of undocumented students who qualify and choose to take advantage of the program.

Despite being disqualified for federal aid, undocumented students who graduate from a California high school and meet the California DREAM Act requirements are eligible for state and university aid under current law.

“(The) DREAM Loan Program really helps those undocumented students who have limited options pay for their education,” Doan said in an email.

Although the program is the first establishment of systemwide financial aid for undocumented college students in California, some UC campuses have already been lessening the financial burden on undocumented students by granting loans from the UC system on a case-by-case basis, according to the press release.

UC Berkeley kickstarted its loan program during the 2014-15 academic year with funding received from the university. In the 2015-16 academic year alone, UC Berkeley has offered 382 loans to undocumented students, according to Rachelle Feldman, assistant vice chancellor and director of the campus Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.

Because the statewide DREAM Loan Program requires different paperwork from students than UC Berkeley’s current loan program, students will have to resubmit their paperwork to receive loans for the summer and for the next academic year.

“We’re thrilled that there’s finally a great, stable statewide access to this program,” Feldman said. “Every dollar spent will help to make bigger and better things possible for undocumented students across California.”

Grace Kim, an undocumented student and campus sophomore, was slightly more critical of the university’s efforts, saying that although she believes the program will greatly assist undocumented students on campus, the university has turned a deaf ear to the needs of undocumented students in the past.

“I just hope that through this program, the UC Office of the President doesn’t say that they’ve given enough support to undocumented students,” Kim said. “I hope this encourages them to make more steps forward.”

UC Berkeley will keep its current loan program active until summer so that students will not have to redo any paperwork halfway through the academic year.

Harini Shyamsundar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.