Mexican Residents To Get In-State Tuition Rates At California Community Colleges
FAIR Take | October 2023
Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill into law on October 13 that will give Mexican residents in-state tuition at some California community colleges. California was one of the first states in the nation to pass in-state tuition for illegal aliens in 2001 and has broadened its laws several times since. It now joins Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to extend these benefits to citizens of another country.
Assembly Bill (AB) 91 provides in-state tuition to low-income Mexicans living within 45 miles of the California border. It was enacted as a five-year pilot program and will start next year and will allow 150 Mexicans to attend each of the following: Cuyamaca College, Grossmont College, Imperial Valley College, MiraCosta College, Palomar College, San Diego City College, Mesa College, Miramar College, and Southwestern College.
The bill’s sponsor Assemblyman David Alvarez (D-Chula Vista) says the bill will make education more accessible and prepare the individuals living close to the border for jobs. “We live in a dynamic border region where we need to educate more students to fill the jobs required for growth.”
Not everyone agrees with Assemblyman Alvarez, however. El Cajon (in San Diego County) Mayor Bill Wells opposes giving Mexicans in-state tuition saying, “American students across the nation are grappling with exorbitant college debt burdens.” “Allowing Mexican students to pay reduced in-state tuition is a disservice to the millions of American students facing this financial challenge.”
The burden to educate Mexican residents at in-state tuition rates will fall to California taxpayers who will be footing the bill. According to a recent FAIR report, providing post-secondary education costs the states a combined $2.8 billion. In California, the average tuition for an individual to attend a community college is $1250 for state residents, while it costs out-of-state residents an average of $6,603.
California joins 23 other states plus the District of Columbia to offer in-state tuition to illegal aliens in contradiction to federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 included a provision (8 U.S. Code § 1623) that makes clear: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a state (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident” (emphasis added).
Disingenuously, California, and these other states, circumvented federal law by tossing residence in the state as a requirement for in-state tuition at state colleges. Instead, California predicates in-state tuition on attending a California high school for a certain number of years or graduating from a California high school. Americans must either wait for California to change its laws or demand that Congress step in and amend the 1996 law to prevent the states from defying its intent.