DREAM could affect transfer aid

Though USC is a private institution, transfer students with Cal Grants will be affected if the second part of California’s DREAM Act is passed.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the first part of the act, AB 130, in late July, allowing undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition to receive scholarships from non-state funds. If he signs AB 131, the second part of the act, the legislation will specifically grant undocumented students the opportunity to receive aid from the state, such as Cal Grants.

USC could be affected through those transfer students from California state schools with Cal Grants because the Cal Grants would be applicable at USC.

In 2010, 72 percent of transfer students at USC came from a University of California, California State University or California community college school, according to the university.

“You can take a Cal Grant anywhere — that’s an open issue that we need to work out with the [California] Student Aid Commission that would address all of these issues,” said Veronica Villalobos-Cruz, USC executive director of state government relations. “They would need to create a whole separate application for these students since they cannot fill out the FAFSA, so they have to find a whole new financial process to figure out the financial needs of this story and the appropriate criteria.”

Villalobos-Cruz said USC is taking a neutral stance toward the potential signing of the second half of the California DREAM Act this week, as the bill applies to funding from state institutions and does not directly affect private schools.

A specific system would have to be put in place to appropriately address transfer students’ specific financial situations, Villalobos-Cruz said.

AB 540 alters the law so undocumented students can receive Cal Grants if they meet  specific requirements. They must attend a California high school for three or more academic years, graduate from a California high school or attain a GED and attend an accredited  public college in the state.

“It’s targeted toward AB 540 students and it only defines the public universities, and in-state and out-of-state tuition,” Villalobos-Cruz said.

According to the website for the 2012 Common Application, which USC began using this year, college applicants must indicate their status as a U.S. or non-U.S. citizen, but providing a Social Security number is “required for U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents applying for financial aid via FAFSA.”

Undocumented students could be attending USC, but they would not be able to officially apply for federal aid without providing a social security number.

“These undocumented students are eligible for merit awards, so they’re getting outside sources of help,” said Tom McWhorter, executive director of USC financial aid. “It’s not that we don’t have undocumented students, but they don’t have a social security number, so they can’t fill out a FAFSA. That’s why they’re so limited.”

Though the DREAM Act might not affect USC directly, Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, pointed out that the DREAM Act raises compelling arguments.

“The philosophical argument is whether you should provide services and support for someone who’s not in the country legally, or whether that person should be penalized,” Schnur said. “But the practical argument is even more stark. These young people graduated from high school. Do you want to invest further in order to increase the chances that they become productive taxpayers, as opposed to recipients of social services?”

Labor demographics also come into play, according to Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group and a demography and urban planning professor at the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development. The aging baby boomer generation will leave behind many spots that need to be filled by qualified, college-educated candidates.

“The DREAM Act has the potential to increase the number of students going to college — that’s a good thing,” Myers said. “I know that because the economy is evolving; they need more workers that have a college degree, and the way we’re going now, we’re going to have a shortage of a million workers in California in the next 10 to 20 years. So we really need a lot more people going to college.”


Correction: The following quotation was originally attributed to Tom McWhorter, executive director of USC financial aid. The quote is actually from Veronica Villalobos-Cruz, USC executive director of state government relations.

“You can take a Cal Grant anywhere — that’s an open issue that we need to work out with the [California] Student Aid Commission that would address all of these issues. They would need to create a whole separate application for these students since they cannot fill out the FAFSA, so they have to find a whole new financial process to figure out the financial needs of this story and the appropriate criteria”

7 replies
  1. Don Honda
    Don Honda says:

    Using the old “talking about Legal and Illegal is Racist” argument has never held very much water in a logical discussion. It is always used to put shame and guilt on the other party, trying to make them defensive. If US Citizens were truly racist and xenophobic, we wouldn’t have Legal Immigration and Foreign Nationals having lucrative jobs in our country. If we were truly Racist, we wouldn’t have 11 million Illegal Aliens in our country. If time was taken to actually read AB 131, by its title and contents, identifies this group as: ILLEGAL ALIEN STUDENTS (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors and at: http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/Bills/AB_131/20112012/). Using this old rhetoric is itself Racist, “White and American People” hating, and only shows desperation by lack of cohesive reasoning.

    The same can be said with the old rhetoric of “Only the Native Americans belong here. Whites have abused them and their lands.” Native Americans were themselves immigrants by coming over the land bridge from Alaska and the Aleutians.

    I wonder why, if the United States is so inhospitable and cruel, is it that people aren’t just fleeing here. Why do people clamor to come here, by facing a life-threatening excursion, face separation from family, paying and being at the subjugation of dangerous criminals, etc.

  2. Vic
    Vic says:

    Y’all like to talk about “illegals”, criminal opportunists taking our jobs and our tax dollars and don’t deserve human rights. Y’all think undocumented students broke the law. What, when they were 12 years old? 6 years? 6 days old? They largely had no say in their citizenship status, but they grew up in the U.S., they graduated high school, and they have dreams of going to college, just like all of you. But many of them can’t go to college, because they don’t have access to scholarships and grants like you do, or their states pass laws that don’t allow them to go to college.

    I’m first generation American. My family has only been in this country 40+ years. We’re immigrants. Y’all are all immigrants. This “immigration debate” is really some classist/racist witch trial establishing who is an American (immigrants who have been here longer), and who isn’t. And if you’re not an American, then “real” Americans have all the right to oppress you until you are deported or until you leave. If you subscribe to white nationalist thinking, then you support the oppression of undocumented residents and don’t care at all about human rights. Education is a human right, living is a human right. You cannot hide behind your false “legal or illegal” argument. The only difference between an undocumented American and you is a social security number, and you stand in the way of their citizenship and education because you want to continue to stand on top of them.

    If you care at all for justice, support the CA Dream Act, and support the DREAM Act as a path to citizenship.

    • USC alum
      USC alum says:

      Just because they were brought here as minors doesn’t mean we should be forced (through taxation) to provide them with financial means to attend college. We’re already forced (yep, through taxation) to provide them with K-12 education. Isn’t confiscating my money for the benefit of illegal aliens a way of oppressing me, of depriving me?

  3. m1k3Vx
    m1k3Vx says:

    Race, class, and immigration has always been an issue with the US and intolerant people.

    @DH: Yes, we DO need a federal DREAM Act and general immigration reform (we also need responsible, sane adults in congress do accomplish such a historical feat)! I’m not going to simply state “life isn’t fair” in addressing those students that have been “left out.” There are, after all, plenty of students at great universities like USC that leave you wondering, “HOW did you get into this school? How much did daddy pay for your spot?” And I have met undocumented students that just work their butts off and deserve a spot more than anyone I’ve ever met!

    “Illegal” status must be taken into serious consideration. By this I mean that we need to realize that there truly is not much of a difference between an undocumented student that’s been here most of their lives and someone who is born in the U.S. Both grew up American and know little else. Any one of us could have been born out of the country had our parents been traveling or what-have-you.

    @Rich: So in response to USA first….many of these undocumented students are as “American” as you and I. Not to mention that, if these graduates were to attain a taxpaying job, they would not be sending their money abroad like many international students. USA first applies to this select batch of students who want to better their lives, better their communities, and better their home country.

    Once again, this is a complicated issue, there’s no easy answer. But we MUST look at this through all angles and consider all options that will not harm anyone who’s trying to achieve “legality.”

  4. Don Honda
    Don Honda says:

    I don’t understand why the same misunderstood issues come up with AB 131. The philosophical question that should be asked is “Why should we invest further into an Illegal Student population when they cannot be employed legally, cannot attain a quick path to citizenship with A Federal DREAM Act not likely in the near future?” They would still have to work at menial jobs with their low contribution, if any when “under the table”, to our tax revenues. The erroneous other issue is that we will have a shortfall in filling job vacancies in 10 to 20 years. This is such an absurd projection that has no factual basis for its projection.

    AB 131 creates more problems in this regard, more frustration. What is needed is true immigration reform, as opposed to another blanket amnesty. There are plenty of US Citizens and Legal Immigrants who have been placed out and priced out by increasing fees and tuition, while not being eligible or having lost their financial aid, and by recruitment of Foreign Students and out-of-state students who pay nearly twice the in-state tuition rate.

    Our Legal Californian Residents and Legal Imigrants, who follow the Rule of Law and process deserve further support to attend to THEIR higher education, their DREAMS for THEY are our future.

  5. Rich
    Rich says:

    yea….we have 9% unemployment currently….and alot of those are college grads. We dont need to be handing out free education to illegal immigrants at the cost of American students. This whole thing is ridiculous. We cant support the entire world. USA first.

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