On Oct. 8, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the second part of the DREAM Act bill, which qualifies undocumented students for financial aid at public universities.
By signing this bill, Brown is heading in the right direction toward making public education truly open to all qualified students. For many undocumented students, being allowed access to financial aid could be a deciding factor when choosing to attend college. Every person living in California should have an opportunity to attend a UC or CSU, and the state should ensure that the cost of education does not deter prospective students from learning.
The senate bill states that only those who are in the process of gaining U.S. citizenship can be eligible for financial aid. Gaining citizenship can take years, and many undocumented students cannot wait that long for their education. This bill will allow students who will clearly one day be a citizen access to privileges that all California residents currently receive.
On the same day that Brown signed the DREAM Act bill, he took another step in the right direction as he vetoed an affirmative action-like bill. The legislation, which would have allowed public university admissions officers to consider race, gender and ethnicity when accepting students, would have been unfair.
In an ideal world, all races, ethnicities and genders would be equal; unfortunately we live in an imperfect society. The idea of an affirmative action-like bill perpetuates the idea that minorities need help getting into higher education institutions. Passing this bill would mean a broad generalization of minority students, and would merely give voice to the problem it is trying to fix.
What universities should be addressing is economic inequality, an issue that can be addressed through financial aid and legislation like the DREAM Act. This is not to say we should discount the adversity that people face, just that these struggles are not always represented in race, gender and ethnicity.
Students should be admitted to public universities because of their intelligence and experiences, not the color of the skin or their gender.
Perhaps the real issue here is that the state of California places so little importance on education, that all students who want to learn cannot be accepted into public universities. Brown’s next move should be to send more funding to public universities, so all California students have access to low cost, high quality education.