The financial future of undocumented California students may be in jeopardy.
Following an appellate court ruling, undocumented students currently enrolled at all California public institutions could possibly lose their in-state tuition benefits. The Sept. 15 decision – which states that California law directly conflicts with federal law concerning student fees – returns the case to court for further proceedings.
Since undocumented students are not eligible for state or federal financial aid, a reversal of the current law has the potential to significantly impact 1,600 UC students receiving the benefit.
Representatives from the UC, CSU and community college systems said they are still reviewing the implications of the ruling and assessing possible repercussions.
Out-of-state students who opposed the state’s tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants first filed the lawsuit, Martinez v. UC Regents, in 2005. The case challenged the legality of Assembly Bill 540, which provides the benefit of in-state tuition to undocumented students who have graduated from high schools in California.
The UC will call for the California Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeal’s decision and reinstate the initial dismissal of the case.
UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said despite the appellate court’s decision, UCSB students who currently meet the AB 540 criteria will continue to pay in-state tuition until a higher court reviews the ruling.
“The decision of Martinez v. UC Regents has been called into question and for this reason, the California Supreme Court will seek to review the decision,” Lucas said. “The status of AB 540 as of now has not changed. Undocumented students who meet the requirements of the AB 540 law will still receive in-state tuition.”
Out-of-state students attending UC schools pay nearly $18,000 more per year than California residents and undocumented students who have graduated from California high schools. Additionally, CSU out-of-state students pay about $8,000 more for tuition.
Students meet AB 540 standards if they attended a California high school for three or more years and graduated from a California high school, or attained the equivalent of a high school diploma. The student must then file an affidavit with their institution of higher education stating that they will seek to legalize their status. AB 540 was passed in 2001.