Outdated DREAM Act guidelines make it difficult for DREAMers to receive financial aid


Photo Contributed by Diana Hernândez Banderas

DREAMers can look for this symbol on campus and in email signatures to find allies.

Emily Henbest, Reporter

The California Dream Act was created to provide financial aid to DREAMers that seek higher education. According to CA.gov, the California Dream Act allows students who may have been born abroad but are without the documentation to be considered a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive financial aid from the federal government. They also meet other specific requirements to apply for state financial aid so they can attend California colleges, universities and career education programs.

Because DREAMers are not formally recognized as U.S. citizens, they do not qualify for federal financial aid. However, those with Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals status qualify for state funding provided by the California Dream Act and this can be one of the largest sources of financial relief for DREAMers attending university.

“There’s been no action on updating any kind of Deferred Action for young people. The DACA students are largely timed out in terms of college like we have some DACA students on our campus, but we have now more students who don’t qualify for DACA, who are new to college, right? So it’s very, very rare for someone under the age of 20, right now, to actually have DACA based on the age requirements,” Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success Matt Ward said.

The DREAM act and DACA program is 10 years old this year, and the guidelines that one must meet in order to be considered a DREAMer have not been updated since its inception, and therefore it is unlikely students who recently graduated high school seeking a higher education will meet them.

“Now that many students can’t fill out [The California Dream Act], it’s harder. And I feel like we’re going back into the early days of my tenure here, when we had to have really thoughtful processes and careful conversations and admission. So having said all that we have right now, the count is 56 students that we’ve identified that are in this category, both undergrad and grad. There may be others I don’t know about,” Ward said.

Leslie Madrigal, Cal Lutheran alumna and financial aid counselor, financially advises and awards DREAMer students at Cal Lutheran.

“Unfortunately, our [DREAMer] students don’t qualify for federal aid, which has led to one of the reasons why the California Dream Act is still important. So while they aren’t considered for federal aid, they actually do get considered for a Cal Grant. So I think that’s also super helpful,” Madrigal said. “In terms of institutional aid, they are considered just like any other student for our merit-based aid, as well as any other need-based aid, like our grants, which is based off of the California Dream Act.”

As Cal Lutheran and DREAMers await federal action to provide an opportunity to pursue an education, resources and allies continue to create an environment for current DREAMer students to flourish on campus.

“Cal Lutheran has a lot of resources for DREAMer students. We have a DREAMer Ally Training program for faculty and staff to better understand how to serve the population of students, Point of Contacts (designated people across departments that work with this group of students), and financial aid (among other resources),” Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission & Coordinator of DREAMer Support, Diana Hernández Banderas said in an email interview.

Hernández Banderas said that a DREAMer Ally works to end oppression and discrimination through support and advocacy.

DREAMers on campus looking for Ally support can look for Cal Lutheran butterflies on email signatures and doors to identify those that have attended the training and are their allies.