American Dream Within Reach of AB540 Students

Jonathan Caballeros, Staff Writer

The American Dream could be closer to reality for undocumented AB540 students thanks to a recent executive order by President Obama.

The president’s order has would allow certain undocumented students to work and study without fear of deportation.

In conjunction with the president’s move, The California Dream Act will allow state entitlements, such as Cal Grants, to be awarded to undocumented AB540 students if there are enough funds after resident students receive their financial aid.

“Pell Grants are federal grants and are only for residents,” said Greg Perkins, EOPS adviser for GCC. “The Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver is a state entitlement, so they are entitled to the waiver, but after everyone else is taken care of first.”

“Not everyone qualifies for these entitlements either,” said Julissa Valladares, president of VOICES, a pro-immigration club on campus, “You must be at least 16 and must continually be in the United States for at least five years.

“Obama’s executive order allows high school and college students up to 31 years [of age] to get a work permit and prevent deportation,” said Valladares. “This executive order started in June and will last two years.”

Although the Dream Act helps AB540 students with their studies and work, there are many obstacles for those wanting to attend a four-year university.

“After so many resident students in universities get Cal Grants, the university can no longer award any more grants. It becomes apparent that it’s pretty tough for an AB540 student to get any Cal Grant in urban universities such as Cal State L.A. or UCLA,” said Perkins.

“My advice would be to go to a less populated university. They could possibly have grants available for AB540 students,” said Perkins.

In community colleges, AB540 students are still waiting for fee waivers.

“Dream Act applications have been filled since 2011, but the fee waivers are only going to be given out starting the upcoming spring semester,” said Perkins.

“About 90 percent of students should be eligible,” said Valladares.

Although the AB540 students might have some tough time getting state entitlements, they still have options being awarded private scholarships, one of which is exclusively given to AB540 students attending GCC: The AB540 community service scholarship.

“The service scholarship is run on campus and is funded by donations, usually faculty,” said Perkins. “To get it, you not only have to have a good GPA, but you must also need to do something to service to community, such as volunteering.”

There are more scholarships available for AB540 students on the college website at

AB 540 students can also make appointments with Perkins by going to the EOPS office, or calling ext. 5571. The EOPS office is located between the Sierra Nevada, Sierra Madre (cafeteria) and Los Robles buildings.

Readers interested in attending a VOICES meeting can go to CR224, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

With the Dream Act, Obama’s orders, and with a bit of knowledge and initiative, undocumented students can work toward their degrees and pursue their dreams.