January 18, 2002

Q&A: Immigrants and Higher Education in California

A new California law, AB 540, is a bill signed by Governor Gray Davis in October 2001 that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the California State and California Community College levels. Students who have attended California high schools qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of immigration status.

Q. I AM AN IMMIGRANT. CAN I ATTEND PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES?

Yes. All eligible students, regardless of immigration status, can attend public colleges and universities. Contact the school admissions office at the college or university for admissions information and an application packet. You may also be able to obtain application packets from your high school or local community college.

Q. DO I QUALIFY FOR IN-STATE TUITION?

+ I am undocumented -

You may qualify for in-state tuition at certain public colleges and universities if you satisfy the requirements under a new law. Effective January 1, 2002, all students regardless of their immigration status qualify for in-state tuition at California State Universities (CSU) and community colleges if they meet ALL of the following requirements:

1) Attend high school in California for three or more years;

2) Graduate from a California high school or pass the GED; and

3) File an affidavit with the college or university stating that they have applied for a lawful immigration status or will apply as soon as they are eligible to do so.

+ I have applied for a lawful immigration status -

Depending on the type of immigration application you have filed, you may qualify for in-state tuition as a "resident" if you have lived in California for more than one year since filing the application. You must provide acceptable immigration documents and satisfy other requirements to establish residency (see below). Please check with the college or university for specific requirements and acceptable immigration documents. Even if you are not eligible under these rules, you may qualify for in-state tuition under the new law (see above).

+ I am a U.S. citizen or lawfully present immigrant -

You may qualify for in-state tuition as a "resident" if you have lived in California for more than one year immediately before the day instruction begins. To be classified as a resident, you must establish physical presence within California, intend to live in California permanently, and meet other requirements.

Q. I AM A NONIMMIGRANT WITH A CURRENTLY VALID VISA (FOR EXAMPLE, STUDENT OR TOURIST VISA). DO I QUALIFY FOR IN-STATE TUITION?

You do NOT qualify for in-state tuition under the new law. However, you may qualify for in-state tuition as a "resident" if your nonimmigrant status allows you to "establish domicile" in the U.S., and you satisfy other requirements for residency (see above). For example, persons with "V" or "K" visas, and citizens of Micronesia or the Marshall Islands should be able to pay in-state tuition if they have lived in the state for more than one year. If you have questions about your nonimmigrant status, please contact one of the numbers below.

Q. WHEN DOES THE NEW LAW GO INTO EFFECT?

The new law went into effect on January 1, 2002, for students attending California State Universities (CSU) and community colleges.

Q. WILL THE NEW LAW APPLY TO THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (UC) SYSTEM?

At this time (December 2001), these new rules do not apply to the UC system, but students and advocates are hopeful that the UC Regents will adopt a similar policy soon. Please contact one of the hotline numbers below to receive updates or to become involved in the campaign.

Q. I AM CURRENTLY PAYING OR HAVE PAID OUT-OF-STATE TUITION, BUT I AM ELIGIBLE TO PAY IN-STATE TUITION UNDER THE NEW LAW. WILL I BE ELIGIBLE FOR A REFUND UNDER THE NEW LAW?

You will not be eligible for a refund if you paid out-of-state tuition for any term before January 1, 2002. You may be eligible for a refund only if you have paid out-of-state tuition for any term that begins on or after January 1, 2002.

Q. UNDER THE NEW LAW, IS THE AFFIDAVIT CONFIDENTIAL?

Yes. The affidavit will be filed with the college or university - not the INS - and will remain confidential except in limited circumstances. Please contact the hotline number below for more details.

Q. WHAT ARE THE FEES TO ATTEND PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES IN CALIFORNIA?

The following are the estimated resident and nonresident fees to attend the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Community College systems during the 2001-02 academic year. Information regarding fees is subject to change, so please contact your college or university for an updated fee schedule.

UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE / 1)= RESIDENT FEES / 2)= NONRESIDENT FEES California Community Colleges (CCC) 1) $11 per semester unit 2) $11 per semester unit plus $135 per semester unit

California State Universities - Undergraduate students 1) $1,876 per academic year 2) $9,256 per academic year plus $164 per quarter unit or $246 per semester unit

University of California - Undergraduate students 1) $3,701.27 - $4,382.00 annual fees
2) $14,315.27 - $14,996.00 annual fees University of California - Graduate students* 1) $4,268.50 - $5,293.50 annual fees 2) $14,702.50 - $15,727.50 annual fees (* Students in the Schools of Law, Optometry, Business, and Medicine are subject to different fee schedules.)

Q. DO I QUALIFY FOR FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS OR OTHER ASSISTANCE?

If you are a U.S. citizen or a "qualified" immigrant with evidence from the INS that you are in the U.S. on more than a temporary basis with the intent to become a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for federal and state financial aid programs as long as you satisfy other criteria for the program. "Qualified" immigrants include: lawful permanent residents; refugees, asylees, persons granted withholding of deportation, conditional entry, or paroled into the U.S. for at least one year; Cuban/Haitian entrants; and certain victims of domestic violence (and their parents/children).

If you are not a U.S. citizen or a "qualified" immigrant, you are NOT eligible for federal or state financial aid programs but you can seek private scholarships, grants, and loans. You may also want to contact your college or university for information on any available fee waivers.

REMEMBER: Do not give false statements about your immigration or citizenship status for purposes of tuition and financial aid. Pretending to be a U.S. citizen or using a false social security number can prevent you from obtaining lawful immigration status. If you have already done so, please contact a reputable immigration attorney as soon as possible or call one of the hotline number listed below.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) 888-6-CHIRLA or 888-624-4752 (Spanish & English)

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