By Renee Walker, September 13, 2022
California state lawmakers rallied to lower tuition for undocumented students in late August when Senate Bill 1141 passed the assembly and is now heading to Governor Newsom’s office. .
The legislature effectively revised the provisions of California Assembly Bill 540, which dictates the educational requirements that undocumented students must complete to qualify for in-state tuition. SB1141 aims to alleviate these demands and difficulties for a smoother transition to post-secondary education.
The Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education and Services to Undocumented Students at Cal Poly Pomona has displayed its excitement and concern over the recently passed legislation.
“I’m glad we’re making more exceptions – many students are excluded from what institutions offer, you know, education should be a right,” said Mecir Ureta Rivera, senior undocumented student services coordinator. . “However, how many of these bills are we going to have to defend undocumented students, without addressing the real problem?”
The main problem being that, based on current government policies, undocumented students are limited in financial options to access higher education. Financial aid, scholarships and work studies are more difficult to obtain and sometimes not accessible at all.
Introduced by State Senator Monique Limón, SB1141 was created to reduce the educational and financial gaps that undocumented students are likely to inherit. Under current law AB540, undocumented students are exempt from paying nonresident tuition at California state universities and California community colleges if they have attended an approved California school for three years. or more, or if the student has acquired three or more years of credits or has completed three or more years of high school.
SB1141 would remove the three-year requirement and instead opt for a maximum of two years. Additionally, due to the imposition of new obligations on community college districts, with respect to determining eligibility for nonresident tuition fee exemptions, the bill would constitute a locally mandated program. by the state.
“A relative of mine is a Dreamer and I watched them struggle to get tuition,” said Teresa Aquino, social justice officer at the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education. “I know DACA helps, but since she’s considered an alien, it would really help, especially after taking a year off.”
Cal Matters reports that, on average, nonresidents pay $10,000 more than their in-state counterparts, and California Community College nonresidents are expected to pay $7,500 more than in-state students.
At CPP, nonresidents must pay an additional $396 per unit on top of their initial payment of more than $26,000 according to California State University’s 2022-23 Cost of Undergraduate Attendance Analysis.
Although SB1141 passed, many allies are still concerned about mounting Republican pushback against the bill.
According to a report by the Laist news publication, Lassen County Republican Senator Brian Dahle expressed concern that there was no money to go around during a hearing. of the education committee in March.
Critics say California has more than enough money to offset the extra costs – up to $68 billion, leaving Californians to wonder if the problem was financial or racial.
“The institution was not made for us; it was made for white men,” said Yaritza Gonzalez, social justice manager at the Cesar Chavez E. Center for Higher Education. “There is a lot to do at the institutional level. Years of decisions would have to be deconstructed to get to the root of their self-interest and their injustice.
Education rights of undocumented students sparked another conversation focused on the contributions of immigrants to the United States
In a report by Steve Yale-Loehr, professor of law at Cornell University, documented and undocumented immigrants paid about $328 billion in taxes and in 2015 about $23.6 billion was paid with individual tax identification numbers.
While the Senate’s decision to pass SB1141 is one step closer to securing effective legislation for undocumented students, much more needs to be done. The services dedicated to helping undocumented students still do not have the necessary resources to deal actively with day-to-day situations.
“With the addition of this bill, we’re going to need the extra manpower, funding, and overall campus support,” Rivera said. “Undocumented students cannot live on campus and do not have access to all resources. They must limit their university experience. One event is not going to change everything and one person is not enough.
Image courtesy of Renee Walker