SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California legislators have passed a bill that would give immigrant students residing in the country illegally tens of thousands of dollars, in addition to scholarship money they may already be receiving, to attend four-year colleges in The Golden State. But not so fast if you think Democrat Governor Jerry Brown is eagerly waiting to sign the bill.
SB 1210 creates the California Dream Loan Program and was authored by state Senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens. It piggybacks off 2011 legislation that allows illegal immigrant students to apply for scholarships and grants under the California Dream Act. Individual students could apply for up to $4,000 a year. It would make available $9.2 million for University of California and California State University campuses.
As reported in the Daily Californian, Sen. Lara said, “We invest in California students from an early age, and many of them have done what we’ve asked them to do. If we’re serious about strengthening our economy then we must remove obstacles for our future workforce.”
Federal dollars are not available to students in the U.S. illegally, but there is plenty of scholarship money via DREAM.US for DREAMers. Still, Lara says students are faced with an estimated financial gap of $5,000-$6,000 at UC and $3,000 at CSU. SB 1210 would extend to each illegal alien student a total of up to $20,000 in loans.
But ensuring that illegal immigrants can get into a college or university may turn into a financial nightmare for many of them. The U.S. student-loan debt has gone beyond $1 trillion, more than the country’s credit-card debt. Obviously, illegal immigrants are going to be facing what many American citizen graduates are facing: heavy debt after they’re handed their diplomas.
A recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that 94% of students had borrowed to pay for their education. The average debt level is $23,000. And grads have a hard time finding jobs. Forty-four percent of graduate ages 22 to 27 with a B.A. or higher were in jobs that did not technically demand a bachelor’s degree. Slate.com reports that 2014 college grads between the ages of 21 and 24 face an unemployment rate of 8.5%. Additionally a total of 16.8% are ‘underemployed.’
Between 2008 and 2013, California reduced its financial support for public higher education by nearly 30% and has increased tuition by 72%. That puts students borrowing money to go to a public college or university even deeper in debt.
So is all of this new emphasis on getting illegal immigrant students into a four-year college program really worth the millions it’s going to cost California taxpayers?
A growing number of education analysts are concluding many high school graduates are not college material. Many would be happier and better off attending a technical school or learning a trade. They could start lucrative careers without being saddled with years of student loan debt.
What advocates don’t realize, or at least won’t admit, bills like SB 1210 are going to encourage even more illegals to cross the border with their hands out ready to receive their ‘share of the pie.’ That would only further burden California taxpayers.
SB 1210 highlights a struggle between liberal Democrats and the more fiscally conservative Gov. Brown. Though he supports immigration reform, he has said he would like to use some of the state’s recent budget surplus to pay off debts and save the remainder in a “rainy day” fund.
He is up for reelection this year and debt reduction and improving the state’s credit rating is part of his campaign platform. So his signature on the bill appears to be in question.