California Offers In-State Tuition To Mexican Residents

On Monday, Democrats in California advanced a plan to provide in-state tuition rates to Mexican nationals.

If Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) signed into law, a measure would allow low-income Mexicans residing within 45 miles of California’s border with Mexico to pay in-state tuition at certain community schools in Southern California.

The initiative will continue until 2029 if approved by the governor. Proponents of the law argue that it would aid the state in recruiting qualified candidates for open posts.

Assemblymember David Alvarez (D-San Diego) presented Assembly Bill 91 to facilitate the higher education of students who are dual citizens of the United States and Mexico. Low-income Mexican students who reside within 45 miles of the California border could pay in-state tuition for five years at any of the seven San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties Community College Assn campuses under the proposed legislation.

In the pilot program envisioned by his legislation, up to 200 international students might enroll at each participating university. U.S. citizens or Mexican nationals with valid visas would be eligible to enroll in the program.

In-state tuition for eligible students is $46 per unit, a significant savings above the typical non-resident price of $300 each semester.

Alvarez said the school treats its binational students like locals, charging them in-state tuition rather than the much higher rates charged to international students because “we believe so passionately in our area.”

Legislative authorities have not determined the cost to the state at this time. It comes as California struggles with a $22.5 billion budget shortfall and a steep decline in enrollment at several of its community institutions.

Enrollment in California’s community colleges hit a 30-year low between the fall of 2019 and 2021. Enrollment fell by 20.3% at Southwestern College, one of the San Diego institutions eligible for the experimental program.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) expressed support for expanding the state’s labor force via legal immigration but expressed worry about some provisions of the measure.

Mathis said in an email that the state should “promote students to remain in California and create their professions here after graduation” and ensure the measure doesn’t take money away from the rest of the community college system.