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After educators assuaged fears, more students applied for aid under the California Dream Act this year

After educators assuaged fears, more students applied for aid under the California Dream Act this year
Alma Sanchez, a program assistant with Kid City, teaches an after-school college-prep class. The state has reached its goal for applications for financial aid under the California Dream Act, officials say. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

After a month of advocacy and efforts to reassure vulnerable students that filling out applications for financial aid would not put them at risk, the state has reached its goal for applications for aid under the California Dream Act, officials said Monday.

The act allows many students who are in the country illegally — and those afforded temporary protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — to apply for financial aid packages available to others.

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When officials saw applications were down last month — for the second year in a row — they enlisted college counselors, teachers and even DJ Khaled to persuade more students to apply. They were concerned that immigrant families' increasing distrust of the government was driving numbers down.

"The headlines about immigration make people feel like they're really in the spotlight," Jane Slater, a teacher at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif., said at the time.

By Friday's deadline for applications, however, the program had received 37,612 applications, up 4% from last year.

"Despite intimidation tactics by federal authorities, students still showed up to apply for California financial aid for college," Lande Ajose, chairwoman of the California Student Aid Commission, said in a statement Monday. She noted that news about the applications came the same week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted raids in Northern California.

More than 27,000 students have received more than $240 million in state aid under the California Dream Act since the application process launched in 2013, said Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission.

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