On Monday, the California State Assembly passed part of the Dream Act. AB 130 makes undocumented students eligible for private
scholarships given away by the state (which totaled $45 million last year) to fund their education. Under California state law, these students already enroll and pay in-state tuition at California's public universities.
But victory for AB 130 isn't the whole dream. The accompanying AB 131, which would make undocumented students eligible for public education grants funded by the state, has not yet made it to the State Senate floor. Governor Jerry Brown (Calif.) has said he is "positively inclined" to support that bill as well, though it's a tougher sell for legislators concerned about the state budget crisis.
Opponents of AB 130 argue that the legislation would worsen California's financial crisis by attracting more illegal immigrants with greater access to an education already subsidized by taxpayers. But few illegal immigrants actually send their children to public schools (about 10 percent), most pay taxes of some sort, and nearly all would pay full taxes and even back-taxes, given the chance to stay here legally. With government subsidies inflating the cost of higher education, a little private, voluntary action may be just what the system needs.
Private donations should be distributed in whichever way the donor sees fit. In this case, generous donors have trusted the state public university system to distribute aid to qualified students. That they have been silent in this debate over who benefits from their generosity indicates that these individuals probably don't mind giving an education to a capable student who will likely stay in the U.S. and use it here.