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Undocumented students can qualify for in-state tuition break


   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Since January 1, 2002, California’s AB 540 law allows undocumented immigrant students pursuing higher education to be exempted from paying out-of-state tuition fees. Undocumented students do not qualify for any type of federal or state financial aid including educational loans because federal law prohibits them from receiving these loans. However, all three public systems in California have adopted AB 540. This includes the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges. Private schools do not recognize AB 540.

In order to be exempt from paying out-of-state tuition, undocumented students must meet ALL of the following requirements to qualify for a waiver : attended high school in California for 3 or more years; graduated from a California high school with a diploma, or GED; and the filing an affidavit with the California community college or university stating that the student meets all of the above requirements, and, if the student is undocumented, he or she will adjust their immigration status as soon as he or she is eligible to do so.

It is recommend that eligible AB 540 students consult with an admissions officer regarding their application. Generally, there are two sections of an application that should be left blank: Social Security Number box should be left blank (unless the applicant has a valid social security number); and the immigration status box should be left blank. All information contained in the application should be truthful, particularly with regard to immigration status and social security information, because providing false information could jeopardize one’s future efforts to adjust immigration status. Generally, the application requires social security number and immigration status information simply so that the school can determine whether the applicant will be classified as a California resident or not. After students have been accepted, they should fill out and send the AB 540 affidavit to the admissions and/or registrar’s office.

If you obtain admission to a graduate or professional program at a California public university and meet the requirements for AB 540, then you are eligible for the out-of-state tuition exemption though many think it is limited to undergraduates. Potential students should contact the admissions counselor of that specific program to ask about the program’s specific admissions requirements.

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Janelle Jalbert is the founder of Edusistance and the creator of the Race to College Success program. She has been an educator and advisor for more than a decade. You can reach Janelle email or follow her on Twitter @RacetoCollege or @edusistance



  • Kellie 5 years ago

    I am irate! This is just another reason why our state is so broke! Thanks for the information.

  • Nick Johnson - CGU 5 years ago

    Nice piece. We have a professor who has done a lot of research on this.