Chancellor Gene Block joined campus students today at a news conference in Bruin Plaza in support of the California DREAM Act, which would allow students who meet in-state tuition requirements to be eligible for certain financial aid programs administered by California's public colleges and universities. Currently, undocumented students are not eligible for this financial aid.
Block has been a strong supporter of both the federal and state measures that would allow qualifying students to receive financial aid. Last fall, Block collaborated with the White House and the U.S. Department of Education to help make the case for the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act, but the effort failed. In California, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in fall 2008 vetoed a similar measure.
In January, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) reintroduced the California DREAM Act, which will receive its first hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday, March 15.
In voicing his support for Cedillo’s bills at the press conference, Block said that the campus probably has several hundred undocumented students, all of whom have faced unique obstacles in being admitted to and studying at one of the most competitive campuses in the nation.
"Many spend hours on the bus coming to and from campus," Block said. "Because they can’t receive financial aid, they have to hold multiple jobs to pay for their expenses. Some rely on friends for places to sleep and food pantries for meals. This is very tough to do if you’re not allowed to get student aid."
The press conference was called by the Undergraduate Student Association to offer support on the eve of the hearings before the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. Cristopher Santos, the association’s external vice president, expressed his gratitude to Block for his leadership on the DREAM Act.
"As you all know, it hasn’t been an easy battle," Santos said.
Block said he could not imagine a more deserving group of students. "They can reach their educational goals, they can contribute importantly to our society," he said. "The DREAM Act legislation for California is overdue, way overdue. It has my strongest support. Let’s get moving."