California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law on Monday that gives undocumented students attending California universities greater access to privately funded scholarships, as the legislature debated a more controversial measure to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition.

The California DREAM Act is distinct from the federal DREAM act, which would open a path to citizenship for some immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children. But they operate on the same principle that undocumented students should be open to some of the same privileges as citizens.

"I'm committed to expanding opportunity wherever I can find it, and certainly these kinds of bills promote a goal of a more inclusive California and a more educated California," Brown told reporters after the bill-signing ceremony Monday. "Today signing this Dream Act is another piece of investment in people, because people are what drives the culture, the economy, the state and our country," he added.

A separate portion of the act that would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, leveling an educational inequity that meant immigrants faced tuition costs nearly five times higher than other Californians, is still bottled up in the state legislature. Brown has signaled he would likely sign that part of the bill if it crossed his desk.

The in-state tuition provision would essentially update an earlier law that makes undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition without specifically mentioning immigration status. The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear a challenge to that law from opponents saying it discriminated against citizens in favor of immigrants.

The question of equal access to education has factored heavily into the debate over immigration. The California DREAM Act effectively takes the opposite position from a tough new Alabam immigration law, derided by critics as unnecessarily strict and discriminatory, that requires schools to verify the immigration status of both new students and their parents.