All About CA DREAM Loans

All About CA DREAM Loans

Background

The creation of the California Dream Loan was first introduced by then-Senator Lara back in 2014. Then in 2018, Assemblymember Ian Calderon introduced AB1895 and it was signed by the California governor. AB1895 provided repayment programs based on someone’s income for the loan. The latest piece of legislation signed by Governor Newson was SB354 by Senator Maria Elena Durazo which expanded the Dream Loan program to graduate students. 

How to apply and know you if are eligible

Students are eligible if they are enrolled at a CSU or a UC where the loan is currently being provided and they are enrolled as an AB540 student. Students may also be eligible if they file the California act application with the financial aid office and show that they are in financial need. Students need to keep in mind that the loan is provided on a main campus basis so they have to make sure to talk to their campus because it is not administered by anyone else.

Important details about California Dream Loans 

  • The interest rate that you agree upon in your contract can not change, it is a fixed interest rate and the interest rates are the same as federal student loans.
  • Just like federal student loans, you have a six-month grace period before you have to pay it back.
  • There is an income-based payment program that schools have come up with. This is based on what you are making as someone who has entered their career and are you eligible to repay this program.

 To learn more about CA Dream Loans click the video below! 

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After the FAFSA/Dream Act: Next Steps

Check Your Student Aid Report (SAR)

After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act there are some additional steps that you should be aware of. For students who complete the FAFSA, there is something called a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the FAFSA. This summary is usually available to view a few days after you submit the FAFSA. It provides important information about potential issues with your FAFSA such as a mismatch between what you reported on the FAFSA and what the Social Security Administration has on file for your name and social security number. Any issues such as these need to be addressed as soon as possible- otherwise, it could create a delay in receiving your financial aid.  

For students who complete the Dream Act, there is a very similar document called the Cal Student Aid Report (Cal SAR) which is a summary of all information reported on the Dream Act, available a few days after you submit your application. The Cal SAR also provides important information about potential issues with your Dream Act application. You should address any such issues as soon as possible to avoid delays in the financial aid process.

The SAR and Cal SAR also will include your official Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC  is determined by the information entered into the FAFSA or Dream Act such as family income, household size, and number in college. The EFC is an important index number that is used by colleges to determine what type of and how much financial aid you can receive based upon your need. The higher the EFC, the lower the need, and the lower the EFC, the higher the need. The EFC is not the exact amount you will have to pay for college, but instead, it can be thought of as the minimum amount you and your family will need to pay. Colleges will receive your EFC and use it to determine the student’s eligibility for financial aid.

Important links and resources:

  • A helpful video about how to retrieve and download a Student Aid Report can be found here. 

 

You Might Be Selected for Verification

Another step that you should be aware of is something called verification. Verification is a process in which the federal government and colleges can request copies of specific documents to confirm the accuracy of the information reported on financial aid forms. Some students are randomly selected for verification while others are selected due to conflicting information that the colleges are seeing on the financial aid forms. 

Examples of documents required for verification can include any of the following if applicable:

  • Official tax transcripts or tax returns
  • Proof of citizenship/residency
  • Documentation of legal guardianship

This process must be completed in a timely manner! If you receive a verification request from a college you need to respond as quickly as you can so you do not miss out on potential financial aid that is first-come, first-served. Note that these verification requests may come through email, the school portal, and/or the regular postal mail.

Institutional Documentation Service – CSS Profile Submissions Only

For students required to complete the CSS Profile, there is a follow-up step that is similar to verification which is called Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC). If required, this process will also require you to submit additional documentation. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • Watch a helpful video that shows how to request a tax transcript via IRS.GOV to be mailed home here.
  • To find out you are required to complete IDOC, check out this website.
  • Created by the College Board, this is a series of slides and videos that reviews the IDOC process that can be found here

Create a WebGrants 4 Students Account

California students also need to be aware of the steps to take to secure their Cal Grant, Middle-Class Scholarship (MCS), or Chafee Grant, if awarded. For general information about these financial aid programs, see our post “All About Cal Grants and Other CA Financial Aid”. After you submit your FAFSA or Dream Act, you will need to create a WebGrants 4 Students (WG4S) account. This is the online portal that allows you to track the status of your state financial aid, complete required To-Do items and manage their award, and review your state financial aid history and remaining eligibility.

It is crucial that students complete your required steps by the appropriate deadlines, such as:

  • Confirm your intended school of attendance or make a school change
  • Certify your high school graduation date, for current high school seniors
  • Complete the Transfer Entitlement Certification, for community college transfer students
  • Complete the Cal Grant C Supplement, if being considered for Cal Grant C

Keep in mind that the timelines for you to complete these steps may vary depending on if you are a first-time applicant or renewing your award, as well as what type of award you are being considered for. You should keep track of their deadlines to ensure that you do not miss out on any state financial aid you may be eligible for. Once you have completed all of the requirements on your WG4S account, your intended college will be able to confirm their eligibility and move forward with issuing payment of their award. 

Important Links and Resources:

  • Watch a help video created by the California Student Aid Commission about how to create your WebGrants 4 Students account here

Check out a detailed description of how to complete certain steps on WG4S here.

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Undocumented Students Budget Worksheet

You have applied for FAFSA, the CA DREAM ACT, scholarships, so now what comes next? Budgeting! Budgeting your aid is a great way to assure all your needs are met while also giving you the ability to plan around how much money you will receive/ have left. Immigrant Rising has conducted a budgeting worksheet to make it easier for you!

On this worksheet, you lay out your cost of attendance, your scholarship money, your CA grant money, and any other methods of income. By laying out your aid, you are able to see which college is the BEST for you by the aid they give you as well as allowing you to petition for even more aid. To access this worksheet and more resources for undocumented students follow the links below! 

Resources – IMMIGRANTS RISING 

Undocumented Student Budget Worksheet  

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Quick Guide to College Access for Undocumented Students

Applying for college can be difficult when you don’t know where to even begin. It is even harder when you might not be eligible for all the resources offered to first-generation college students due to citizenship status. However, Immigrant Rising has gathered a quick guide for undocumented students to make applying to college easier! In this quick guide, you get information about AB-540/SB-68: In-State Tuition & Residency Requirements, the California Dream Act ( General Info, Ideal Timeline, Step and Tools), and Scholarships and other resources.  

AB 540/SB 68: In-State Tuition & Residency Requirements: 

In this section of the quick guide, you get detailed information about in-state tuition. This includes information like: 

  • Differences between CA In-State Tuition (AB 540/AB 2000/SB 68), CA Dream Act, and DACA,
  • Learn how in-state tuition eligibility has expanded to include community colleges (credit/noncredit) & adult schools in CA, 
  • Learn how California residency and AB 540/SB 68 affect the amount of tuition that you pay at CA public colleges & universities.

California Dream Act and State-Based Financial Aid: 

In this section, this quick guide offers easy access to information about the California Dream Act and other state-based aid offered to undocumented students. This information includes: 

  • What kinds of financial aid and institutional scholarships you can apply for through the CA Dream Act
  • Understand the four phases required to successfully complete the California Dream Act application and receive the maximum amount of aid for which you are eligible 
  • Checklists and Timeline for the CA Dream Act and Cal Grant 

Scholarships and Other Resources: 

Apart from the Dream Act and Cal Grant, undocumented students are eligible to other aid through scholarships. The guide offers: 

  • Scholarship Search Chart 
  • Scholarship Writing Support 
  • Undocuhustle Learning Hub 
  • CCOP’s CA Undocumented Student Resource Map 

To access these resources and more you can visit QUICK GUIDE TO COLLEGE ACCESS FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS IN CALIFORNIA. You can also visit  IMMIGRANTS RISING – TRANSFORMING LIVES THROUGH EDUCATION to access even more resources involving college, immigration, mental health etc.! College is possible for everyone with the right resources.

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Verifying Your Income for the CA Dream Act Application

After submitting the CA Dream Act Application, you may be asked to verify the information you provided about your income. Don’t worry, you did not do anything wrong if you are selected; a percentage of all applicants are required to verify income as general practice. If you happen to be selected, follow the steps below!

  1. Know if you have you have to verify your income

Not all CA Dream Act applicants are required to verify their income. You will know if you must verify your income via email or schools’ online portals. If you do not receive any notification about verifying income, then you do not need to take additional steps at the moment.

2. Know if you are Dependent or Independent Student

You are Dependent if you are all of the following:

  • under 24 years old or born after 1/1/98,
  • not legally married (single),
  • have no children or other dependents, 
  • and are pursuing an undergraduate degree.

If you are Dependent then you MUST provide information on BOTH your income and your parents’ income. Even if you do not live with your parents or receive their financial support, you must provide their information. Some exceptions on this may apply depending on school. 

You are Independent if you are at least one of the following:

  • over 24 years old or born before 1/1/98,
  • legally married, 
  • have children or other dependents for whom you provide 50% of their support, 
  • a veteran or active duty, 
  • an orphan or ward of the court, 
  • at risk of homelessness,
  • have a special circumstance, 
  • or pursuing a graduate degree.

If you are Independent, then you will only provide income information about yourself.

3. Know if you and/or your parents are Tax Filers

If you and/or your parents file taxes, be prepared to obtain the 2019 tax return transcript (note: this is different from the tax account transcript). You may request the tax return transcript from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for free online or through the phone. The person requesting the transcript must be the one who signed the taxes; someone else is not allowed.

If you and/or your parents do not file taxes, prepare the following information/documents:

  • all 2019 household income earned,
  • financial assistance or benefits (if received),
  • a copy of W-2 form(s). 

Be aware that if you or your parents earned over the IRS income filing limits, you may be required to file taxes in order to receive a financial aid award.

If you and/or your parents do not file taxes because of cash payment and do not have a W-2 form, you must explain the circumstances in the school verification worksheet. You may be required to include proof of non-filing from the IRS.

4. Fill our the Income Verification Worksheet

After you have determined where you stand with dependent/independent status and tax filing status, you will fill out the Income Verification Worksheet. A standard worksheet asks about/for the following:

  • Household Size: The rules of the CA Dream Application define households as you (the student); the biological or adoptive parents; siblings under the age of 24 in most cases; and/or other dependents for whom the parents are financially responsible (such as an elderly or disabled person). Additional family members or individuals that live within the home, but do not meet these requirements should not be included in the household.
  • Marital Status: Indicate whether the parent or you are single, married, separated or divorced, or widowed. Parents who are living together, but are not married should choose that option.
  • Tax Filing Status: Indicate whether you and/or parent or spouse is a tax filer or a non-tax filer.
  • Financial Aid Received: List the amount of grants or scholarships you received during 2020 and the school(s) attended.
  • Child Support Paid: List the amount of any child support paid in 2020, including the child’s name, the name of the person who paid child support, and the name of the person to whom it was paid.
  • SNAP Benefits Received: Indicate whether you and/or your parents received SNAP  benefits in 2020 or 2021. Documentation from the agency that issued SNAP benefits may be required upon request.
  • Certification and Signature: By signing the verification worksheet, you and/or your parent certify that all the information is true. Signing also authorizes the Financial Aid Office to update the student’s California Dream Application per CSAC guidelines and the information provided.
  • Additional Documentation: An individual college or university has the right to ask for additional documentation regarding household size or income earned if it is necessary to gain an adequate understanding of how household expenses were met for 2020.
  • Multiple Schools: If you listed more than one school on the CA Dream Application, you will be required to complete income verification at each school individually.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed by this process! Remember that this is standard procedure for a certain percentage of students who apply for the Dream Act. Do not be discouraged. We, and many others, are here to support you through the process!

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