California offers college aid to aliens

California Dream Act Offers Path to College for Undocumented Students is my latest U.S. News story.

At San Jose’s Downtown College Prep, the school in my book, nearly all undocumented graduates enroll in community college, work part time and live at home to keep costs down. The new “Dream Act” will make low-income students eligible for fee waivers and then for Cal Grants when they transfer to a university.

But it’s not just about money, says Jennifer Andaluz, the school’s executive director. Students see the new law as a “symbolic win,” perhaps a step toward a federal law that would include a path to citizenship. And even without that, most believe they’ll find a way to legalize some day, somehow, Andaluz says. “They’re very optimistic, very hopeful, very resilient.”

In most states undocumented students aren’t eligible for state aid or even for in-state tuition. As a result, only 5 percent to 10 percent of undocumented high school graduates enroll in college, estimates the Immigration Policy Center. Those who do are highly motivated.

“They hunger for education in a way that, sadly, some students in our country do not,” says Isa Adney, a student life coordinator at Seminole State College in Florida.

At Downtown College Prep, which sends all its graduates to college, undocumented students are much more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years than their classmates who are citizens or legal residents, says Andaluz. “Their attitude seems to be: ‘My parents sacrificed so much for me. I can’t squander my opportunities. The golden gates are going to open and I need to be ready.'”

Opponents of the law are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would repeal what they call the “Nightmare Act.”

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON January 2, 2012

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