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California Dream Act

What is the California Dream Act?

The California Dream Act is a combination of three bills, Assembly Bill (AB) 540, AB 130 and AB 131. Together, these bills allow undocumented and nonresident documented students who meet certain provisions to be treated the same as resident students. Combined these Assembly Bills constitute what is called the California Dream Act and they allow undocumented AB 540 students to pay the resident fees at public colleges and universities, apply for and receive private scholarships funded through public universities, state-administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and state-sponsored Cal Grants. 

What are the differences between AB 130 and AB 131?

Assembly Bill 130 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on July 25, 2011, granting undocumented AB 540 students access to an estimated $88 million in private financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants. AB 130 gives colleges and universities the discretion to award institutional scholarships to undocumented students who qualify for Assembly Bill 540 (review AB 540 requirements). This includes scholarships funded through private donors, alumni contributions and individual departmental efforts. Students must apply and compete for available awards as determined by their respective college or university. This bill went into effect as law on January 1, 2012.

Assembly Bill 131, students who meet the AB 540 requirements are “eligible to apply for and participate in all student financial aid programs administered by the State of California to the full extent permitted by federal law”. Eligible students receive state-based financial aid such as Cal Grants, State University Grants and Board of Governor’s Fee Waivers. Cal Grants represent the major source of aid that students would gain access to. A Cal Grant is a form of aid that represents funds available to students that meet GPA, parent income, and High School graduation requirements. This bill went into effect as law on January 1, 2013.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the California Dream Act and Additional Sources for Financial Aid

What is AB 540, and what does it have to do with the California Dream Act? 
AB 540, passed in 2001, allows students meeting all of the following criteria to pay the same tuition and fees as resident students at California public colleges and universities. The California Dream Act extended Cal Grant A & B Entitlement awards, Cal Grant C awards, institutional grants, and community college fee waivers to students that meet these same criteria. To receive CA Dream Act aid, AB 540 and AB 131 students must:

  • Must meet the AB 540 eligibility requirements:
    • Must have attended a California high school for a minimum of three years
    • Graduate from a California high school or pass the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) or get a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), also called the General Educational Development test)
  • Enroll in an accredited California institution of higher education
  • In the case of students without legal immigration status, fill out an affidavit stating that they have filed or will file an application to legalize their immigration status as soon as they are eligible to do so
  • To get a Cal Grant, they must also meet all other Cal Grant eligibility criteria

I saw that AB 540, AB 130, and AB 131 guarantee confidentiality, but what about my parents’ information?
California Dream Act students without legal immigration status will be required to fill out the California Dream Act Application instead of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

  • Like all other dependent Cal Grant applicants, California Dream Act students will be required to submit parental income and asset information. The demographic information students will provide on the California Dream Application is largely the same as the information that students have already supplied to their high schools and colleges
  • There are no checks and matches between the California Dream Act Application and any federal databases
  • California Dream Act students and their parents’ information is protected by the same privacy and information security laws and safeguards as all other Cal Grant applicants

I am a high school senior and fit the AB 540 criteria above. For what financial assistance might I be eligible when I enter college? 
You may be eligible for:

  • AB 540 In-State Tuition Assistance
  • AB 130 private scholarships (see your intended college or university for applications and deadlines)
  • AB 131 Institutional grants like the UC “University Grant” or the CSU “State University Grant” (see your intended college or university for applications and deadlines), California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s fee waiver (BOG fee waiver) (see your local community college for application) Cal Grant (apply every year between January 1st and March 2nd)
  • Other State-administered financial aid (click here for detailed eligibility requirements ­-

I am in middle school. I am undocumented. What can I do now to get ready for college? 
There is a lot that you can do right now:

  • Stay in school and work hard to get good grades
  • Go to a California high school and graduate or pass a graduation equivalency exam
  • Talk with your parents and family about seeking information to apply for citizenship

I am a foster youth, and I do not have a Social Security number or any paperwork about my biological parents. Can I get any financial aid for college? 
You may qualify for:

  • Chafee Foster Youth aid
  • AB 540 in-state tuition assistance
  • AB 130 private scholarship aid offered through California public colleges and universities
  • California Dream Act Cal Grants or institutional grants
  • Board of Governor's fee waivers at California community colleges

I am currently in college. I am an AB 540 student. What kind of aid can I receive? 
You may be eligible for:

  • AB 540 In-State Tuition Assistance
  • AB 130 private scholarships (see your college or university for applications and deadlines)
  • AB 131 Institutional grants like the UC “University Grant”, the CSU “State University Grant”, the CSU Extended Opportunity Program (EOP) or the California Community College Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) (see your intended college or university for applications and deadlines), community colleges Board of Governors fee waivers.
  • California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s fee waiver (BOG fee waiver) (see your local community college for application)
  • If you are attending a California Community College and plan to eventually transfer to a 4-year institution, you may qualify for a Community College Transfer Entitlement Cal Grant
  • If you are enrolled or expect to enroll in a career-technical program at your college, you may qualify for a Cal Grant C

Is this a one-time award, or can I apply every year? 
You will need to reapply for financial aid every year.

Where can I get more information about the California Dream Act?
There are two prominent websites you may consider reviewing:

The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) offers a variety of online instructional guides.

Researching Private Scholarships
Undocumented students, whether AB 540 eligible or not, should research and apply for private scholarships. There are scholarships available for undocumented students through private organizations. Be advised that deadlines for these scholarships will vary throughout the year.

Here is a list of organizations that provide scholarships for undocumented students (these scholarships are open to all undocumented students, no matter of national origin):

The lenders below offer student loans undocumented students may qualify for. This is not an endorsement of these loans and we urge you to carefully read the terms and conditions before accepting any loans.

  • Parent Achiever Loans from Key Bank and Sallie Mae is designed to help parents and sponsors pay education expenses for students attending an undergraduate or graduate institution. The parent or sponsor must be a U.S. citizen.
  • GreenNote is an innovative new company that was built to help students obtain loans for education via social networking rather than through traditional lending methods.

An additional resource about financial aid and scholarships for undocumented students is  FinAid’s The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid.


Students Who Have Received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Undocumented students who have applied for and received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), should submit the California Dream Act Application for consideration for financial aid.