Illegal alien tuition bill proposed

The California State Assembly passed a measure Sept. 14 that, if approved by Gov. Gray Davis, will make going to college more affordable for illegal aliens living in California.

Introduced in February 2001 by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh (D-South Gate), Measure AB-540 seeks to allow students without legal California residency to pay in-state tuition fees.

Although a similar measure was vetoed by Davis last year, the measure’s proponents hope that the Texas legislature’s decision to adopt the basic tenets of AB-540 will lead to its success in California.

The measure would only affect tuition paid to community college systems and the California State University system, but UCSD Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Watson believes that the measure’s approval could be a call for the University of California and its regents to follow suit.

“”If this bill was adopted and signed by Davis, it would be a strong recommendation to the Regents of California to implement this program,”” Watson said.

Watson said that AB-540 brings up a concern far greater than the money that students, regardless of citizenship, would have to pay at California’s public universities.

He views the measure as a form of “”public policy”” and believes that it addresses the broader concern of how inclusive California will be to its newest members.

Watson said that the measure could have a “”great impact on how we view ourselves as a society in California.””

The measure would require that undocumented students attend school for at least three years and graduate from a California high school to be eligible to pay in-state tuition fees.

While Watson said he does not believe that the measure will cause an increase in the number of underrepresented students at UCSD, he stressed that the measure could encourage students who would be otherwise unable to pursue higher education.

“”The bill could have a great ability to motivate individuals to achieve their goals due to the decreased money barrier,”” Watson said.

According to Watson, the measure sends the message that California wants all of its residents to be able to fully participate in society.

Watson also believes that despite the number of individuals affected by reduced tuition, the measure’s power lies in its ability to “”impact broader public policy.””

Watson acknowledges the arguments made by the measure’s opponents, that AB-540 would allow immigrants illegally living in California to pay the same amount of tuition as Californians with established residency status.

Watson said that the concerns of AB-540’s opponents, chiefly that passing the measure could mean increased illegal immigration to California and a decrease in the general quality of education, are not “”irrational arguments.””

“”[AB-540] is a risk, and like most laws, nothing is perfect,”” Watson said.

Watson said he does not believe that the measure will remedy the problem of underrepresentation of minorities at UCSD.

“”This is not an affirmative action or diversity bill,”” Watson said. “”That is a false argument.””

According to Watson, the measure addresses how society should operate in order to make sure that all California residents are positive contributors to society.

“”The bill is supported by the California Student Aid Commission, who believes this is a worthwhile bill,”” Watson said.

Elizabeth Snyder, a Muir sophomore, believes that applying in-state tuition fees to undocumented residents proposed by AB-540 would be equitable.

“”I think that would be fair, just as long as they are allowed to then become legal citizens and to receive the same taxes as regular citizens do,”” Snyder said. “”As long as [these students] are contributing to the general economy in some way, I think it would be OK.””

Mike Davis, a Warren sophomore, agrees with the measure’s principle of inclusiveness and opportunity.

“”This bill makes sense,”” Davis said. “”If these students have already gone kindergarten to 12th grade and the state has funded [it], then they shouldn’t be prevented from going to college. These aren’t wealthy people and they probably can’t afford to pay the out-of-state tuition.””

According to Vincent De Anda, director of the Financial Aid Office, UCSD cannot choose to waive out-of-state fees in either need or merit-based situations.

In addition, De Anda said that UCSD cannot award need-based financial aid to illegal aliens.

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