College application season is here! That means that applying for financial aid is also here! When you are applying for financial aid, you will either apply for FAFSA or the California Dream Act! So you may be wondering, what is the difference between FAFSA and the CA Dream Act? They both help pay for your college education, but they are two separate applications. Keep reading to find out all the ins and outs of CA Dream Act!
Background and Eligibility
Q1. What is the California Dream Act?
The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (U.S. Citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships funded through public universities, state administered financial aid, university grants, community college fee waivers, and Cal Grants. In addition, the California Dream Act, allows eligible students to pay in-state tuition at any public college in California.
Q2. Who can apply for the California Dream Act?
Students who live in California and meet the eligibility requirements for a non-resident exemption, as well as students who have a U Visa or TPS status, can use the California Dream Act application (CADAA). Similarly, students without Social Security Numbers or students who have lost DACA status (or never applied for DACA), may still be eligible. The full language of the law and eligibility requirements is stated in CA Education Code 68130.5
Q3. What is the difference between the FAFSA and the California Dream Act application?
Students should only complete one of the applications (not both), according to the citizenship requirements below:
- You are eligible to complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov if you are a:
- U.S Citizen
- Permanent Resident
- Eligible non-citizen
- T Visa holder
- You are eligible to complete the CADAA at https://dream.csac.ca.gov/ if you are:
- Have a valid or expired DACA
- U Visa holders
- Have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) 2 | Page Revised 09/19
- Meet the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540
Note: If you have further questions, including how to ensure you are completing the correct financial aid application, you can visit the Immigrants Rising website and review the document titled, “FAFSA VS CA Dream Act: Apply to the Correct Financial Aid,” at https://immigrantsrising.org/resource/fafsa-vs-ca-dream-act-apply-to-the-correct-financial-aid-in-ca/
Q4. What are the non-resident exemption requirements under AB 540?
Students must meet all four (4) requirements to be eligible:
- Time and coursework requirements
- High school attendance in California for three or more years, OR
- Attainment of credits earned in California from a California high school equivalent to three or more years of full-time high school coursework and a total of three or more years of attendance in California elementary schools, California secondary schools, or a combination of those schools. OR
- Attainment of credits earned at a California adult school, OR
- Credits earned at a California Community College, OR
- A combination of the schools listed above
- Degree or unit requirements (completion of either of the following):
- Graduation from a California high school or the equivalent (GED, HiSET, TASC) •
- Attainment of an Associate degree from a California Community College
- Fulfillment of the minimum transfer requirements from a California Community College to a UC or CSU campus
- Register or enroll in an accredited and qualifying California college or university
For a list of Cal Grant eligible schools, please visit: https://webutil.csac.ca.gov/CalGrant_Inst/CalGrantInstSearch.aspx
- Submit a signed “Non-Resident Exemption” Request
Some schools will refer to this document as an “AB 540 affidavit.” This form states that you meet all the requirements to qualify for a non-resident exemption under AB 540 and, if you are undocumented, that you are in the process of legalizing your immigration status (or will do so as soon as you are eligible).
Please contact the Residency Deputy or the Admissions and Records office at your college for information on how to complete your non-resident exemption form and to determine if supporting documentation is needed. You should complete this form upon accepting an offer to attend a college in California and at least one semester or quarter before you are scheduled to start classes.
Q5. What should I do if I’ve already submitted a FAFSA before learning that I should have submitted a CADAA?
You must first complete the CADAA and then complete the “Application Conversion Form G-55” which can be obtained at: https://www.csac.ca.gov/post/application-conversion-form Please make a copy of this form for your records, send the original form (along with documentation to prove your identification) to the Commission and contact the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend to inform them of this error.
*For a full copy of of the California Dream Act FAQs for Students and Parents please go to this link: CA Dream Act FAQ
For a checklist of applying for the CA Dream Act go here: CA Dream Act and Cal Grant Checklist
For a checklist of applying for a Cal Grant through the CA Dream Act go here: CA Dream Act and Cal Grant Checklist
Sources: CSAC and Immigrants Rising