January 25, 2002

New Tuition Exemption Would Make UC More Affordable For Some Students

As a measure to further expand access to a University of California education, the UC Board of Regents today (Jan. 17) conditionally approved by a 17-5 vote a new tuition exemption program that will allow certain nonresident students to pay in-state fees if they have attended at least three years at and graduated from a California high school.

With the exemption, which was proposed in response to passage of Assembly Bill 540 (authored by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Los Angeles), eligible students will pay annual resident fees, currently set at $3,859, instead of the $14,933 total currently paid by nonresidents.

"The exemption will make it easier for hard-working, talented students to attend the University of California," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. "The regents' action today will also keep UC tuition criteria consistent with the state's policies for the California State University and California Community College campuses, which will help reduce confusion for students and parents as they consider higher education opportunities."

It is estimated that between 200 and 390 currently enrolled students would be eligible for the new exemption. Some of these eligible students are undocumented immigrants who have attended and graduated from California high schools (and must certify they are taking steps to legalize his or her immigration status as soon as eligible).

However, many are domestic students who are currently classified as nonresidents for various reasons. For instance, they may have attended high school in California, but their parents did not live here or later moved away before the student enrolled at a UC campus. Students who left California and established residency in another state, but are now returning to pursue graduate studies may also be eligible for the nonresident tuition exemption.

Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the new exemption, regardless of their current class level.

The regents' action aligns UC policy with new state policies for CSU and the community colleges; these policies were contained in AB 540 and signed into law last October. However, implementation at UC is conditioned on the enactment of additional state legislation limiting UC's liability should the new policy ever be successfully challenged in the courts. The governor's 2002-03 budget proposal calls for keeping UC's in-state fees constant at this year's level, the eighth consecutive year without an increase. A $428 increase is proposed for 2002-03 nonresident tuition fees.

Program costs to the university are estimated at between $2.3 million and $4.4 million annually, depending on the exact number of students who receive the exemption. In the coming weeks, the university will notify students who are currently paying nonresident tuition about exemption criteria and the application process. Additional information will be available online at www.ucop.edu/sas/sfs/ppolicies.UCTE-FAQ.PDF.

The university provides a number of other tuition exemptions for other groups of students, including children of California firefighters and law enforcement officers killed on active duty, members of the military on active duty in California and their dependents, and Native American graduates of a California high school operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.


1. What exactly did the Board of Regents approve?

The regents conditionally approved a tuition exemption that will allow certain nonresident students (those who attended for at least three years and graduated from a California high school, and certify that they are taking steps to legalize his or her immigration status or would do so as soon as they are eligible) to pay in-state fees instead of the higher nonresident tuition fees. Currently, these UC students would pay $3,859 rather than the $14,933 total paid by nonresidents.

However, for the new policy to take effect, further legislative action is necessary. It is expected that the Legislature will take action this year, which means that the provisions will go into effect no later than January 2003.

2. Why did they take action at this time?

The regents' action aligns UC's tuition criteria with state policies signed into law last October (Assembly Bill 540, authored by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Los Angeles) that apply to California State University and California Community College campuses. That legislation went into effect Jan. 1, 2002.

3. Who is potentially eligible for this new benefit?

The university estimates that between 200 and 390 currently enrolled students will be eligible for the exemption at UC. (It is expected that additional eligible students in these categories may enroll because of the lowest cost). This total includes undocumented (nonresident immigrants) and domestic students who, for various reasons, are classified as nonresidents. These documented students may have attended a California high school, but their parents did not live in California or later moved away. Students who met in-state criteria and then established residency in another state, but are now returning to California to pursue a graduate degree, may also be eligible for the new tuition exemption. The exemption will apply to both undergraduate and graduate students.

4. What will be the estimated cost to the University of California?

Costs to the university are estimated at between $2.3 million and $4.4 million, depending on the exact number of students who receive the exemption.

5. What are the criteria to qualify for this tuition exemption?

To be eligible for the tuition exemption, the student must meet all five of the following criteria:

a) Attended a high school in California for three or more years; and b) Has graduated from a California high school or has attained the equivalent thereof; and c) Is not a nonimmigrant alien (as defined by federal law, including, for example, those who have been issued a "student" visa); and d) Is enrolled, or is registering to be enrolled, at the University of California after Jan. 1, 2002; and e) Is subject to the Nonresident Tuition Fee.

In addition, if the student is without lawful immigration status, the student must file an affidavit stating that he or she has filed an application to legalize his or her immigration status, or will file an application as soon as he or she is eligible to do so.

6. When does the exemption go into effect?

The regents' action is conditioned on additional state legislation, which would then determine when the provisions could take effect for UC students.

7. Are "home-schooled" students eligible?

A student who is "home-schooled" in an arrangement where a parent schools his or her child but does not hold a California teacher credential is not eligible, because that "school" would not meet the exemption definition of a "high school in California." The university is still in the process of determining whether students home-schooled by a credentialed teacher would qualify for the exemption.

8. Can students living out of state enroll in a private California "Internet high school," complete their course work via distance learning or correspondence, and meet the California high school enrollment and graduation requirement?

No. This type of private school would not meet the requirements of Section 48222 of the California Education Code, which defines what constitutes a "high school in California" for the purposes of exemption eligibility.

9. Does the high school enrollment have to be at the same California school and for three consecutive years?

No. The three years for a student's 9th through 12th grades need not be consecutive or completed at a single California school. For example, if a student attended 9th grade at a California middle or high school, left the state to attend 10th grade in another state, and returned to a second qualified California high school to complete 11th and 12th grades, that student would still meet the requirement of three years of high school attendance in California.

10. Does this new policy change a student's eligibility to receive financial aid?

No. Eligibility for the nonresident tuition exemption does not affect the eligibility standards or requirements for any form of student financial aid. However, if the exemption is granted retroactively, it could impact the amount and, possibly type, of financial aid a student received for the winter 2001-02 quarter (spring semester).

11. Where should students go for additional information about this new policy? Campuses will notify current UC students who are being charged the nonresident tuition fee. Those notices will include phone numbers, e-mail addresses and/or campus Web site addresses for students to get more information about the exemption's eligibility criteria, application forms and deadlines.

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