Assembly Bill Offers Tuition Relief to Some Students

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Gov. Gray Davis on Oct. 14 signed a bill that will allow incoming undocumented immigrant students in the Cal State, UC and California Community College systems to pay in-state tuition.
The bill signed by Davis offers relief for undocumented students who have been turned away by the high cost of tuition at public institutions.

Assembly Bill 540 was authored by Marco Firebaugh (D-Cudahy) and Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).

Equal Opportunity Placement Services counselor Matilde Morales says that many of these low-income students never get a chance to achieve in life because they hit the brick wall of tuition costs.

“Their parents encourage them: `Go ahead, go ahead, you can make it,’ they say,” said Morales. But “when they finish high school, they end up working in a minimum wage job with no benefits. It is really sad, discouraging, and frustrating.”
For Glendale College students who are residents of California, tuition is $264 per year at $11 per unit, while out-of-state tuition, which previously applied to the undocumented, amounts to $3,384 per year at $141 per unit.

Out-of-state tuition is higher for the Cal State system. California residents pay $1,826 each year in tuition, while those without residency pay up to $7,330 per year in tuition alone.
Undocumented students who wish to pay the new tuition fees must be high school graduates in the state of California or must have lived in California for at least a year. Additionally, once admitted, these students can apply for citizenship while in college. No longer will a student have to wait – sometimes for years – for his or her legal status to change before they can set foot inside a classroom.

This bill has been supported by a large number of educators, businesses, and labor unions, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the University of California, and the AFL-CIO.
“It was a wise decision from the governor,” said Morales. She adds that many bright students slip through the cracks, unseen, because they are unable to pay to further their education.
“It is a waste of talent,” said Morales.