The UC Regents conditionally approved a tuition exemption program that would allow certain nonresident students to pay in-state fees if they have attended three years at and graduated from a California high school.

Students that left California to establish out-of-state residency, but now want to come back for graduate school, may also be exempt. The regents’ tentative approval of the new system came by a 17-5 vote at the Jan. 17 board meeting in Los Angeles.

“The goal is to make the University of California accessible to students who are qualified and can benefit from the exemption,” UC Media Coordinator Trey Davis said.

The proposed system would also make UC policy consistent with those of the California State University and California Community College systems. State policy AB 540, approved in October 2001, exempts CSU and CCC students from out-of-state tuition under the same conditions the UC now seeks to implement.

“The regents’ action simply aligns UC policy with California state law,” UC Media Coordinator for Admissions Hanan Eisenman said. “The focus is basically giving exemptions to students whom the regents, in this case, felt deserved exemptions.”

Because the AB 540 makes no stipulations for the UC system, implementation of the exemptions is contingent upon further legislative action that would block legal action against the University, Davis said.

“The University has constitutional autonomy. As a result, the regents must vote on the policy,” he said. “In this case, the regents were concerned about potential liability, so we are asking the state to amend AB 540 to limit our liability. The state assembly is expected to take that up this session.”

The exemption would apply to an estimated 200 to 390 undergraduate and graduate students across the UC system’s 10 campuses. UCSB’s 1,618 nonresident students, out of a total 19,945, pay an additional $3,568 every quarter.

Costs to the UC are estimated at between $2.3 million and $4.4 million, depending on how many students qualify for the exemption. However, more nonresidents are expected to enroll because of the policy.

The CSU system has already taken steps to align with AB 540.

“We’re complying fully with the measure,” CSU Media Relations Manager Clara Potes-Fellow said. “I think it’s going to affect our students positively. These students who were paying out-of-state fees which were five times higher will really benefit.”