California has long been known for going against the grain, and its handling of higher education and the students who enroll in those institutes is no different. This Monday, the California Supreme Court passed a ruling which declared that all residents of California can be eligible for a reduced cost of college tuition. However, this fact alone is not the reason why the ruling has made headlines across the country. Rather, it is the inclusion of another group of California residents in this ruling that has the public stirring both in joy and in anger – that group being illegal immigrant students, who are also eligible for these tuition cuts thanks to the California courts.
California has had a tuition deduction system since 2001, where all resident state students who attend a state high school for at least three years and successfully graduate are eligible to receive lower tuition costs for an in-state public college, according to an article published in the New York Times. This means that students can save as much as $12,000 each year in tuition costs, whereas those who do not meet those requirements – such as students coming to a California university from out of state – are not eligible for these deductions. Under this plan, illegal immigrants who get through at least three years of high school in California and then graduate are also eligible for the tuition reduction if they choose to go to an in-state college. However, they are not eligible for state of federal financial aid aside from the tuition reduction.
Opponents of the ruling argue that allowing illegal immigrants to take advantage of the lowered cost of tuition is unfair as numerous legal citizens cannot take advantage of it themselves, such as those who come from other states to attend university in California. This is just the latest in various battles at the state level that address the issue of illegal immigrants, including Arizona’s recent strict immigration law passage. However, the California courts counter that the law does not conflict with national interests because it also allows for citizens from other states who attend high school in California to benefit. The law regarding tuition deductions focuses primarily on where students attended high school and not where they are originally from, which opens up the benefits to many more people.
Another factor that drove the passage of this ruling is the state’s large Latino population. In fact, Latinos account for more than half of all the students enrolled in California’s public schools, according to the NY Times article. Their support made it possible for the ruling to pass. Many advocates of the deducted tuition rate for illegal immigrants see the ruling as a way for illegal immigrant students, who often flee Mexico in order to seek out a better life in the United States, to afford higher education and eventually gain their citizenship. However, the opposition is already moving to revoke or amend the law to exclude illegal immigrants.
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