(The Center Square) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new bill granting access to in-state community college tuition fees to Mexican residents living within 45 miles of the California-Mexico border as the national border crisis continues to escalate.
“Last week, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 91, creating a pilot program to allow low-income students who live near the California-Mexico border a discounted tuition rate,” bill author Assemblymember David Alvarez, D-Chula Vista, said. “This pilot program can unlock a significant untapped resource to prepare a more diverse population among our workforce. I want to thank all the advocates who supported this bill and for fighting to expand education opportunities to every community.”
This law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, as the United States faces a severe border crisis, with the Department of Homeland Security reporting 3.8 million individuals have entered the country since the start of 2021, nearly half of whom are “gotaways” that were never intercepted by Border Patrol agents, checked against national security watchlists, and given Notices to Appear in court for asylum hearings.
Alvarez defended the program as a way to “address the demand for skilled workers,” and “promote a more diverse workforce and economy” by “reducing the barrier of high tuition expenses for low-income students.
AB 91 also codifies that a “community college district may contract with a state, a county contiguous to California, the federal government, or a foreign country, or an agency thereof, for payment of all or a part of a nonresident student’s tuition fee,” which suggests that Mexican students may be able to use some existing programs for tuition waivers and grants already accessible to low income students and undocumented immigrants.
Under existing legislation, students from “low income” families with household incomes below the poverty line are typically eligible for tuition waivers that bring tuition to zero. Under the California College Promise Grant Fee Waiver program, undocumented students are able to receive tuition waivers.
In California, the poverty line for a household of four is $36,900. In 2022, household income in Mexico was $15,200, which means most Mexican families could qualify for free community college tuition in California, should schools decide to accept their tuition waiver applications. .
Even with the handful of colleges participating in the pilot program, the state estimates the program will cost “millions” of dollars each year. If 150 credit full-time-equivalent students (a number of students using credits equivalent to those used by a full-time student) enroll in the program at each of the pilot colleges, the program would cost $6.3 million each year.