California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state's Dream Act into law Saturday, clearing the way for illegal immigrants to receive state financial aid to attend California universities and community colleges.
The law gives illegal immigrants in California more education benefits than in any other state.
According to a statement from the governor's office, Brown said he signed the California Dream Act because it makes sense to allow high-achieving students access to college financial aid, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,'' Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.''
Under the law, illegals who are accepted into state universities can receive, beginning in in 2013, Cal-Grant assistance, which last year provided grants averaging $4,500 apiece to more than 370,000 low-income students, according to the Times.
It also allows students without citizenship papers to get institutional grants while attending the University of California and California State University systems, and to get fee waivers in the California community college system. To qualify under the law, students must have arrived in the country before the age of 16 and graduated from a California high school after having attended school in-state for at least three years. They also must show financial need and meet academic standards.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed several similar bills in the past.
AB 131 is a companion bill to AB 130, which Brown signed in July, that gave illegals access to privately-funded scholarships and grants.
Brown said that California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million.
"The overall Cal Grant program is funded at $1.4 billion, meaning that 1% of all Cal Grant funds will be potentially impacted by AB 131 when the law goes into effect,'' Brown's statement said.
That differs from other reports about the program's cost. According to the Sacramento Bee, it is expected to cost the state between $23 million and $40 million annually.