The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal last Monday that challenged California Assembly Bill 540, which allows undocumented students to pay resident tuition at in-state colleges. The decision is a welcome conclusion after years of legal challenges, beginning when the original lawsuit was filed in December 2005.
Undocumented students qualifying under AB 540 make up a small population of the University of California student body, estimated by UC President Mark Yudof in a March 8 letter to number between 390 and 488 students. Regardless of legal status, everyone deserves the opportunities this world-class university has to offer if talented enough to earn acceptance.
It would be unwise to deny future leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs the chance to reach their full potential because of their immigration status. Preventing this small but ambitious population of students from having the chance to gain an education would deny the state the future economic benefits stemming from education.
While AB 540 is an essential step toward making concrete, positive change in the undocumented community through education, it also applies to U.S. citizens.
It is imperative for opponents of AB 540 not to politically distort the law, which at its core maintains students’ strong ties to California by requiring students to complete three years at a California high school and either graduate in-state or attain a GED. Undocumented students must also file or plan to file an affidavit expressing intent to apply for legal residency as soon as possible.
Had the Supreme Court overturned AB 540, California would have made higher education even more financially burdensome to undocumented students and in doing so lose out on incalculable future benefits. But at the same time, the university and the state cannot afford to offer in-state tuition to all students regardless of whether or not they meet the law’s criteria.
We are pleased with the decision — the survival of AB 540 is paramount to making education more available to all Californians, and an educated California is a strong California.