California State Lawmaker Wants to Give Low-Income Students in Mexico Less Expensive College Tuition
The dream of attending school in the United States, held by many generations of students from across the globe, may soon become much more affordable for aspiring scholars living in Mexico, thanks to a California state lawmaker who wants to extend in-state tuition rates across the U.S.-Mexico border. .
State Assemblymember David Alvarez, who resides in San Diego, has drawn-up legislation allowing low-income students who live within 45 miles of the state’s border with Mexico to be exempt from nonresident tuition fees for community colleges in the San Diego region, if they have “demonstrated a financial need for the exemption.”
In a statement released from his office, Alvarez said the rationale for the measure is rooted in basic economics.
San Diego, he said, needs to double the number of people with post-secondary education by 2030 to meet the demand of the local economy, adding, “We live in a dynamic border region where we need to educate more students to fill the jobs required for growth.”
The legislation is endorsed by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA), as well as the support of Southwestern College, part of the Southwestern Community College District.
“Southwestern College is the cornerstone for affordable and accessible higher education opportunities in the South County,” said Superintendent and President Dr. Mark Sanchez said. “Expanding affordable access to low-income, bi-national students will make a significant contribution to our region’s bi-national workforce and economy.”
The bill was introduced as a pilot program that would sunset on Jan. 1, 2029, unless another statute is enacted making it permanent.
The bill stipulates the tuition waivers will be limited each academic year to 10 percent of students attending college within the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association.
In other words, the legislation would exempt up to 200 students at each SDICCCA college from paying nonresident tuition.
A report by local CBS affiliate KFMB-TV says international students pay an average over $8,000 per semester for community college tuition, about double the amount for in-state students.
Current enrollment at a San Diego community college costs $46 per unit, while nonresidents need to pay a nonresident tuition fee of $304, plus added enrollment and health fees, according to the San Diego Community College District.
While existing law allows community colleges to admit nonresident students, including students from states that border California, nonresident students have to pay a nonresident tuition fee. However, under the new program, nonresidents who are both citizens and residents of another country and have a demonstrated financial need would qualify for an exemption.
Other exemptions specified in the bill include nonresidents who enroll in six or fewer units, students who attend Lake Tahoe Community College and who live in specific communities in Nevada and students who were admitted or enrolled in higher education in Alabama, Louisiana, or Mississippi during the fall semester of the 2005-2006 school year and could not continue “as a direct consequence of damage sustained by that institution as a result of Hurricane Katrina.”
Alvarez’ legislation needs to go through the state Assembly’s education committee before being voted on in the full chamber.