Price for 'Dream Act' going up with tuition costs

December 2, 2011 7:38:00 PM PST
The price tag for California's new Dream Act is going through the roof: The intent of the act was to help all high school graduates in the state go to college, even if they're undocumented. But the cost to taxpayers is skyrocketing along with the increase in tuition fees.

Undocumented college students can begin receiving publicly-funded financial aid in 2013. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst now pegs the cost to taxpayers at $65 million a year when fully-implemented -- nearly three times more than the original low-end estimate.

It's difficult to pinpoint an actual number because UC and CSU tuition rates keep rising.

"This legislation essentially says to these students, the taxpayer will cover your tuition," said Steve Boilard with Legislative Analyst. "So if the tuition goes up, then the taxpayer costs go up."

The report also found the Dream Act, passed through the legislature as AB 131, will hurt legal students getting a grant called institutional aid.

"Everybody's grant will go down a little because you're trying to spread a fixed pot of money across more college students," said Boilard.

Aides for Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who pushed through the Dream Act, say the costs are minimal. Those aides point out undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition are paying into the financial aid pot with their fees.

"For us, it was an equity issue," said Cedillo's Chief-of-Staff Dan Savage. "If they're going to pay into it as students, then they should benefit from it by being able to receive institutional aid."

Dream Act opponents have been trying to repeal AB 131 through the referendum process, which allows them to ask voters whether California should keep the law.

The Stop AB 131 movement has just about a month left to gather the 505,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The group believes the new report will help them get there.

Referendum coordinator Rigo Avelar thinks that $65 million a year could help other areas hurt by budget cuts.

"All these programs that got decimated, they could sure use that money there as opposed to giving it away," said Avelar. "People are at the point where (they're saying), 'No we don't have to take it anymore.'"


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