California Passes Dream Act Allowing Aid for Undocumented Students

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Eric Paul Zamora / Fresno Bee / MCT via Getty Images

Grisanti Valencia holds a sign along with others during a rally in support of the DREAM Act at Fresno State University, November 19, 2010.

The Dream Act puts education within reach even for the Golden State’s illegal immigrants.

While weighing 50 education bills yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act into law Saturday, opening the state’s purse of financial aid to even those who don’t have official documentation.

AB 131 was the second part of the Dream Act legislation, the key section of the bill that allows undocumented students access to both public and private funding for California colleges. With the signing of the bill, Gov. Brown fulfilled his campaign promise of allowing high-achieving students access to public education funding, regardless of immigration status.

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The Dream Act will open the state’s Cal Grant money pot to illegal immigrant students in 2013. The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 undocumented students will qualify for Cal Grant funding as a result of the Dream Act, allowing $14.5 million for those students. The entire Cal Grant program is funded at $1.4 billion, meaning the total available for immigrant students represents 1% of the purse.

California’s Dream Act is different from the federal initiative, which puts forth a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who can prove their education status and show an effort to become a legal resident. The measure failed to attract enough support in Congress last year, but with California having passed a smaller version of the bill, many pundits are hoping the Golden State will set the tone for the rest of the nation.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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