The University of California became the latest higher education institution to pledge financial support for students in the U.S. illegally on Wednesday. University president (and former Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano announced the $5 million in funds on Wednesday: "UC welcomes all students who qualify academically, whether they are documented or undocumented," she said.
The Associated Press notes that the University gave few details on the conditions or specific designations for the money. Napolitano said the funds could go to "resources like trained advisers, student service centers and financial aid." The university estimates that there are about 900 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, or "dreamers," in the university system. The nickname comes from the U.S. Dream Act, an immigration reform bill that has more or less stalled in Congress.
California has a law similar to the federally-proposed Dream Act that allows undocumented students to apply for scholarships and grants at the state level. Those students, however, are still barred from most federal sources of financial aid. Some individual schools in the system, such as University of California at Berkeley, have their own privately-funded scholarship programs for undocumented students.
Among other things, the undocumented student initiative represents something of an olive branch extended towards early critics of Napolitano's surprise appointment as president. In her previous gig at the Department of Homeland Security, she implemented a series of immigration enforcement programs that are unpopular with advocates for immigration reform. Some wondered whether she'd continue that attitude towards immigration as university president. The UC Student Association considered and rejected a vote of no confidence on Napolitano even before she officially took office.