Students pass the bronze statue of their campus mascot, The Bruin, a California grizzly bear.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill that will let students who entered the country illegally receive private financial aid at California's public colleges, even as debate continues over a more contentious bill that would allow access to public funding.
The Democratic governor signed AB130 at Los Angeles City College. It is the first of a two-bill package referred to as the California Dream Act, which is aimed at getting financial aid for college students who entered the country illegally.
"This is one piece of a very important mosaic, which is a California that works for everyone," Brown told a crowd of about 100 students and community leaders gathered inside the city college's library.
Brown said it was important to invest in every person who lives in the state because "people drive the culture, the economy." The governor did not address the second bill in the package, which is more contentious because it would allow illegal immigrants to receive state-funded scholarships and financial aid. That bill, AB131, is in the state Senate.
The legislative package authored by state Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, differs from the federal Dream Act, which would include a path to citizenship for those bought to the country illegally as children.
Cedillo said he admired the students without legal status because of the obstacles they have had to overcome. He said allowing students to qualify for private scholarships and financial aid is one step that will help them get through college.
"Public education in this great state and this great country is a great equalizer of society," he said.
California's community college and public universities systems support the bill, noting that it affects less than 1 percent of their student population. According to the University of California, fewer than 80 students across its system of more than 220,000 students would be affected by the bill signed Monday.
The California State University estimated that some of the 3,600 students who have permission to pay in-state tuition rates even though they lack legal documentation could be affected by the new law. The CSU system enrolls about 440,000 students.