University officials support loans for undocumented students

Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, said Wednesday that she supports the state offering a loan program to immigrants in the country illegally.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO -- Administrators from California’s two public university systems called Wednesday for the state to provide student loans to some immigrants in the country illegally to cover expenses not met with state scholarships.

UC President Janet Napolitano and Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez said their university systems are backing legislation creating the loan program, which will cost the state and campuses up to $9.1 million the first year.

Napolitano noted that the state previously granted students in the country illegally access to state scholarships and the in-state residence rate.

However, those students are not eligible for federal student loans so there is a gap in their financial aid of up to $6,000 annually for those attending the University of California campuses and $3,000 for students at California State University schools.


“They risk having to withdraw from the university despite having done everything we asked of them to prepare for admission,” Napolitano told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. “I believe once these students are admitted, we should work as hard as we can to ensure that they have every chance to succeed, including providing them the same access to resources as their campus peers.”

The Senate panel voted 5-0 to approve the measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who agreed to work out some of the financial issues in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Republican Sens. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Mark Wyland of Escondido withheld their votes. “Because that [immigration] is a federal issue, today I won’t be voting on the bill,” Wyland said.

Lara is proposing that the state allocate funds to go into loan pools administered at each campus with repayments recycled into new loans for future students. Lara proposed that each institution provide matching funds for the money provided by the Legislature so that campuses have an incentive to administer the program responsibly and minimize defaults.

“SB 1210 will ensure undocumented students who have worked hard to get into college have means to focus on their studies,” Lara told the committee.

The two university systems estimate that 2,150 students in the country illegally could potentially borrow $9.1 million the first year. Legislative analysts estimate the state would have to allocate at least $6.9 million the first year and double the amount each year after until the program becomes self-sustaining.

The Lara bill was supported by students who would qualify, including Ana Maciel, a Chicano Studies major at UC Davis. “I am constantly forced to choose between school resources, books or being fully fed for the week,” Maciel said.


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