In light of a recent decline in applications, officials throughout the state of California are encouraging students to apply for financial aid under the California Dream Act before its deadline March 2.
The California Dream Act allows undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and apply for the same financial aid opportunities available to legal residents and citizens.
Through the application, students are eligible for Board of Governors Fee Waivers, Federal Grants, Cal Grants, scholarships, student loans and work study.
This year, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) has only received 20,000 applications compared to the 34,000 it received at the same time last year, according to California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
State officials said the approximately 40 percent decline in applications is due to a growing fear among undocumented students.
“It’s apparent that the national conversation surrounding immigration and deportation has created an environment that is confusing and threatening to many of our students,” Oakley said in a statement. “Under the Dream Act, no student’s personal information is shared at the federal level.”
College of the Canyons (COC) has also seen in a decline in California Dream Act applications this year, according to COC’s Managing Director of District Communications John Green.
“Our Dream Act applications are down, just as they are throughout California,” he said. “We believe that undocumented students are not comfortable divulging personal information to any government program because of the uncertainty surrounding immigration.”
Green noted that under the Dream Act, students’ personal information is not shared at the national level and is used solely for financial aid purposes.
“We encourage all eligible students to apply – and our doors are always open to them,” he said.
The sentiment was the same with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson who encouraged eligible students to apply for the program.
“The California Dream Act is the key to success in college and 21st century careers,” Torlakson said in a statement. “It would be a shame if fear or confusion keeps students from applying for financial aid that they have earned and they deserve.”
A state law, the California Dream Act is separate from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started by President Obama in 2012, which allows individuals brought to the U.S. as minors to receive a renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit.
“A Dreamer student does not need to be DACA-certified to be eligible for a public education or state financial aid,” Torlakson said. “Losing DACA status will not affect state financial aid eligibility.”
At the local level, College of the Canyons (COC) encouraged eligible students to apply for the California Dream Act program on its social media sites and on a notice in the rotation of the school’s internal message boards.
COC has also been advertising regularly with local high schools through workshops in both Spanish in English, fliers, brochures and discussions with student clubs about financial aid options available for prospective students.
Following the 2016 election, COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook released a statement titled “Our Commitment to You” which reaffirmed COC’s mission to ensure success for all students by creating an “environment where everyone can achieve their educational goals and realize their full potential.”
This included equal access for all students to the college’s programs and services.
“Financial aid is available to all students, including undocumented students,” Van Hook said. “Undocumented students are eligible to pay in-state enrollment fees, and they also can apply for and receive fee waivers and Cal Grants, as well as scholarships offered by the College of the Canyons Foundation.”
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