Parts of a bill in the California State Assembly that would have changed the status of undocumented students that allows them to pay resident fees at California state colleges and universities were removed to only include modifying residency status for military personnel.
Under AB 2472, Assemblymember Mark Wyland (R-74th district) proposed to eliminate exemptions under AB 540 that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at community colleges, California State Universities and Universities of California.
The bill would instead give military personnel or members of the armed forces reserves immediate residence status to pay for in-state tuition and fees, eliminating a one-year residency rule.
Currently, CSU resident tuition for students who enroll in six or less units is $990 per semester, and students enrolled in six units or more pay $1,521 a semester. Out-of-state residents pay an additional $339 per unit.
Kimberly Garcia, sophomore sociology major, came to Los Angeles from El Salvador 12 years ago with her parents, who she said were searching for a better life for their family. Garcia said she graduated high school with good grades, and her goal was to go to college.
Garcia said she was able to afford the cost of tuition at a university under AB 540.
“I always had in mind that I wanted to go to college, but when I graduated (high school), I asked myself, ‘How I was going to pay for my education?’ ” she said. “I couldn’t pay the out-of-state tuition, we thought tuition was going to cost over $10,000 a year.”
With the aid of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles – a nonprofit organization aimed at educating on social issues and providing legal representation to immigrants – Garcia said she and her family were informed about AB 540 and learned that the bill would help make college more affordable. After learning about the bill, Garcia said she applied to a university and was accepted.
Garcia, however, said she is now worried about finishing college if AB 2472 passes.
“If this initiative passes, I don’t know how I would pay such high tuition,” she said. “I don’t understand why they want to prevent undocumented people from getting educated.”
AB 2472 was amended by the Assembly Committee of Higher Education April 24 and re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.
AB 2472 was originally rejected by The Assembly Higher Education Committee.
“The Assembly Higher Education Committee has rejected a bill that would have helped military reservists and veterans, whose services and commitment to this country goes farther than the mere act of taking to the streets to demand ‘rights,'” said Wyland in a written statement.
After AB 2472 was rejected, it was amended by Wyland to exclude his original request that AB540 be annulled and re-introuduced to the committee, where it is under consideration.
Some individuals believe AB 2472 could have had a negative impact on undocumented students who pursue a college education.
“Unfortunately, it is difficult to calculate the amount of students who ? have benefited from (AB540) because of confidential rules that have the colleges have,” said Samantha Contreras, youth organizer of Wise Up!, an organization under CHIRLA designed to inform and motivate youths to learn about issues that affect immigrants.
“We know that AB 540 has been (a) beneficiary to many students, not just Latinos, but also Asians, Koreans, and other ethnicity,” Contreras said.
Every year approximately 65,000 undocumented students graduate high school and one-third of those students enroll in college under AB 540, according to CHIRLA.
“Law AB540 represents an advance in the education for undocumented people,” Contreras said. “The benefits of this (law) have been important, and the reason why many have continued with their education.”
“But there is still much to do so that immigrant students can have more opportunities in this country,” she said.
While AB 540 provides undocumented students with an affordable alternative to attend college, it does not establish legal residency and does not allow the students to seek federal or state financial aid.
Garcia expressed frustrations about not being allowed to obtain financial aid.
“I have had to look for private financial aid to pay my tuition, I cannot work because I don’t have papers,” she said. “So although this law has lowered my tuition cost (by) several thousand dollars, it does not help me obtain financial aid.”
The lack of legal residence documentation, Garcia said, hinders many undocumented students who seek a college education because of its high tuition and fees.
“If you don’t have papers, you can’t work, so how can you pay for your education?” she said. “I’ve known many students who have had good grades, but had to abandon their studies because they can’t get a job that will pay them enough to afford to pay for school.”
To qualify for AB540, undocumented students must meet certain requirements, including having had attended three years of high school and received a diploma or a GED, and they must be registered at a California community college or university. Undocumented students must also submit an affidavit affirming that they will apply for legal status in the U.S. as soon as they are eligible.
Contreras believes AB 540 has given undocumented students the chance to go to college.
“AB540 has made such a huge difference in the lives of many students,” Contreras said. “It was the beginning of new opportunities (for them).”
Sandy Archila can be reached email@example.com.