Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California signed legislation on Saturday that will allow thousands of illegal immigrants who graduated from high school in California to receive state financial aid for college, but he vetoed another bill of interest to higher education that would have tried to allow public colleges to consider race in admissions.
Along with roughly a dozen other states, California already allows some illegal immigrants to pay less-expensive in-state tuition at public colleges. The new law, AB 131, known as the California Dream Act, will allow them to apply for Cal Grants, fee waivers at community colleges, and institutional financial aid at public universities, starting in 2013.
The state's Department of Finance estimated that 2,500 additional students would qualify for Cal Grants as a result of the law, at a cost of $14.5-million, or 1 percent of the total budget for the state's main financial aid program. Governor Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement that the California Dream Act "benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us."
Republican lawmakers criticized the cost and said they planned a referendum next year to repeal the law. "We have just created a new entitlement that is going to cause tens of thousands of people to come here illegally from all over the world," Assemblyman Tim Donnelly told the Los Angeles Times.
In his veto message regarding the bill that would have allowed public colleges to consider race in their admissions decisions, Governor Brown said that he supported the goals of the measure, SB 185, but that it conflicted with Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action that voters approved in 1996.