“We’re paying more and getting less,” Associated Press reporter Donna Gordon Blankenship quotes student “Steve Dixon, a Humboldt State University senior who heads the California State Students Association” in her February 1 article  on tuition hikes across the country.
According to Blankenship, “At the University of California, which has 10 campuses and about 220,000 students, in-state undergraduate fees in fall 2010 are set to reach $10,302 — 32 percent more than in fall 2009 and three times what California residents paid 10 years ago.”
“But at California State University, the nation’s largest public university system with 23 campuses and 450,000 students, resident undergraduate fees rose 32 percent from fall 2008 to fall 2009 to $4,026, which is nearly three times what students paid 10 years ago,” she writes.
“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal for 2010-2011 assumes that the system will raise fees another 10 percent in the coming academic year.”
With these tuition hikes, California students and their families are rightly concerned about how to pay their bills. But does this mean that the state should subsidize illegal immigrants by granting them in-state tuition as well? “Honestly, we are still trying to get back on our feet from [last year’s] increase. With another fee increase, with no financial aid, it could mean no AB540 students,” UCLA’s  “Asian Pacific Islander Newsmagazine,” Pacific Ties , quotes “fourth-year political science major E. Ganoa” in its Fall 2009 issue.
AB540 refers to the California Assembly Bill 540  (passed in 2001), a law which provides an avenue through which illegal immigrants in the state of California can qualify for in-state tuition rates as long as they meet certain residency requirements. “AB540 students will have to withdraw from the University in record numbers in order to work enough to pay just one quarter off at UCLA,” continued Ganoa.
Whether California’s policy of offering illegal immigrants state-subsidized tuition at the expense of taxpayers while charging out-of-state students hiring tuition rates complies with federal requires remains a point of intense debate . In the case of Martinez v. UC Regents, “The trial court dismissed the action, but on appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District held that California state law authorizing in-state tuition to illegal aliens is preempted by federal immigration law and void,” states the Pacific Legal Foundation  website. “The State and the Regents of the University of California are appealing this decision to the California Supreme Court so that overburdened state taxpayers, who are suffering under California’s devastated economy, will be forced to continue subsidizing the college education of adult illegal immigrants,” asserts PLF, which filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the plaintiff last November.
According to the Pacific Ties writers Layhearn Tep & Shin-rong Kim Yau, Ganoa is “a member of Improving Dreams, Equality, and Success (IDEAS), a community outreach project and advocacy group from undocumented students.”
IDEAS runs the “AB-540 Project” which “raises awareness to undocumented students, parents, academic counselors and the Los Angeles community about the academic and financial resources available for undocumented students in order to realize their American Dream despite the hardships they are faced with,” according to their website .
“Given their immigration status, undocumented students face many struggles in affording higher education because they cannot apply for financial aid and many scholarships,” they assert. The group also advocates  for the passage of the DREAM Act .
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia .
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