Undocumented students in California feel a sense of relief now that they are eligible for financial aid from the state's public universities.

Law AB131, known as the California Dream Act, took effect Jan. 1.

The legislation makes aid available to undocumented high school graduates who qualify for admission to the University of California and California State systems, as long as they were 15 or younger when they were brought to the United States.

"I cried for joy when they approved the California Dream Act, because my dream of being a pediatric doctor will be a reality with the financial aid," Salvadoran-born Graciela Ruiz told Efe.

"I graduated from John Marshall High School in Los Angeles in 2010 and since then I have dedicated myself exclusively to work, because the medical degree program is very expensive," she said.

The aspiring physician expects to enter UCLA in the fall.

The California state government estimates the initiative could benefit as many as 20,000 "Dreamers," so called after the long-stalled federal DREAM Act.

Uriel Rivera, a junior at UC Berkeley, told Efe the enactment of the aid program takes a load off his mind.

"In my case, I've been working and with some small private scholarships I have made up the rest," the Mexican immigrant said. "But starting this year, I qualified to receive around $14,000 annually, which is more or less what I need to pay the price of the university."

"We're not taking anything away from anyone, rather we're only receiving the benefits for which our families pay, the money that those of us who are awaiting a path to legalization pay," Rivera said.

Sergio Dominguez, another Mexican native, has been taking community college courses for the past two years after graduating from a Los Angeles high school and now hopes to transfer to a university.

"I currently work at a gas station and with the approval of the financial aid to continue studying it facilitates access to the education I want to have," he said. EFE