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Sep 30, 2014 07:52 AM EDT

Illegal Immigrants Can Now Apply For Federal Loans at UC and CSU

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Governor Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 1210 to allow illegal immigrants to apply for federal loans.

The bill has created the California Dream Loan Program that provides state loans to undocumented students in the UC and CSU systems. The program is projected to cost UC about $3.6 million per year and CSU $1.5 million per year.

The low-interest loan program is expected to attract up to 3,000 borrowers in its first year, beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. The loan borrowers would start repaying their debts at least six months after graduation.

"The Governor's approval of the Dream Loan Program is a win for California's economy, a win for the UC and CSU, and a win for California students," said the bill's sponsor, Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Huntington Park/Long Beach, Contra Costa Times reports.

This is the latest policy that has been introduced to financially help individuals who entered the United States illegally as children. In 2001, the government permitted students who attended Californian high schools to pay in-state tuition at public universities. In 2013, they became entitled for state tuition aid or Cal Grants.

Pro-immigrant supporters said that without access to federal grants or loans, these students will face huge financial aid gaps. Lara said that the education costs an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 at UC and $3,000 at CSU.

Linda Leu, the Young Invincibles' California Policy and Research Director, said that the California Dream Loan Program guarantees all young people receive equal access to an affordable public higher education and a brighter future.

"Higher education is critical for young people looking to advance in today's economy, but young undocumented Californians haven't had equal access to higher education," said Leu.

"For many students, receiving admission to Berkeley is a moment of triumph," Meng So, coordinator of the campus Undocumented Student Program, said. "But for many undocumented students, because they don't have access to FINANCIAL aid, oftentimes the question they first ask is, 'Can I afford it?' " Daily Cal reports.

Although UC Berkeley junior Ivan Villasenor Madriz, an undocumented student, admired the latest legislation, she feels that it and several other California laws abandon undocumented students who do not qualify for Assembly Bill 540, which excuses certain nonresident students from paying out-of-state tuition.

"Even though there are all these opportunities ... they still haven't addressed the root of the issue," Madriz said.

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