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By Miriam Raftery

June 12, 2016 (San Diego) – Five years ago, the California Dream Act authorized grants to help undocumented immigrant students attend community colleges, public universities and some private colleges.  But last year, about one-third of that “Dreamer” scholarship money was not given out, Ed Source reports.

At community colleges, fully half of those grant funds were not spent—money that by law cannot be used for anything else.  University of California and California State University systems did better, giving out 84 percent and 68 percent of their funds respectively.

Even some students who were awarded grants did not use them.  Some students surveyed said even with a grant, the still could not afford the remaining costs of college. Some said they were unaware they’d been provided a grant, despite claims by officials that efforts were made to notify all recipients.

 In other cases, paperwork requirements, such as providing parents’ tax returns, prevented students from getting the money.  Some, brought to the U.S. as babies or young children, feared such information could prompt deportations of themselves or their parents, although the Student Aid Commission says information is not provided to immigration officials.

Some students were not eligible due to other reasons, such as low grades, attending out of state schools, or family income over the $47,600 limit for community college grants.  Some don’t realize that the grants also make them eligible to apply for other benefits such as waivers of tuition or help with costs of books and dorm fees.

For more information visit the California Student Aid Commission.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, author of the California Dream Act and now a Los Angeles Councilmember, says some students have told him that in conservative communities, school officials have “refused to inform” students how to obtain the grants, because they are politically opposed to giving money to undocumented immigrant children and want to see student aid limited to those born in America.  

But Tim Bonnel, a financial aid specialist with the California Community Colleges, says he hasn’t heard of any intentional efforts to deny students the funding. He says most colleges are aware of the law, but blames short-staffing at community colleges for the problem.

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