Illegal immigrants in California can indeed get the same reduced tuition at public colleges that legal residents enjoy, the state's Supreme Court ruled unanimously.
California passed a law in 2001 that says students who attend at least three years of high school in California and graduate are eligible for in-state tuition at public schools, regardless of their immigration status.
The Court ruled that the law does not conflict with a federal prohibition on education benefits for illegal immigrants, in part because U.S. citizens from other states who attend high school in California may also benefit.
Illegal immigrants remain ineligible for state or federal financial aid.
Kris Kobach, the legal scholar who helped draft Arizona’s controversial immigration law, argued the case on behalf of American citizens from other states who were not eligible for reduced tuition. He said his side would appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think the pendulum is definitely swinging in favor of enforcement of the law and discouraging illegal immigration,” Kobach said. “I am confident this is not the last word on the subject.”
Supporters of immigration reform said the ruling will open up higher education for illegals.
“This law makes higher education affordable for so many students who have the added difficulty of not being eligible for federal financial aid,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “If they are both ineligible for aid and then face higher tuition rates, it becomes virtually impossible for students to go on to higher education.”
Students paying in-state tuition can save upwards of $12,000 a year compared to students who come from other states.