California Assembly Bill 540 (2001)

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California Assembly Bill 540 (2001)
Seal of California.svg
California State Legislature
Full name Assembly Bill 540
Status Passed
Introduced May 1, 2001
Assembly voted September 14, 2001
Senate voted September 12, 2001
Signed into law October 12, 2001
Sponsor(s) Marco Antonio Firebaugh, Abel Maldonado
Governor Gray Davis

California's Assembly Bill 540 is a bill signed by Governor Gray Davis on October 12, 2001. This bill allows undocumented students who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition instead of out-of-state tuition in California's higher institutions, such as the University of California, California State Universities and California Community Colleges.[1]

This bill provides marginalized students with the ability to easily attain a college education.[2] Some of California's higher education student population is worried that the rising cost of education will lead them to rely on financial institutions for monetary support. Tuition has been constantly increasing, and some institutions have even seen tuition hikes of over 50% since the mid 2000's.[3] Tuition at the University of California is expected to increase after the end of an agreement made between Governor Jerry brown and University officials. The agreement states that a two year tuition freeze will be in place until the end of the 2016-2017 academic school year; Therefore, California residents' tuition would remain at approximately $12,294, while non-resident tuition will rise up to 8 percent annually—bringing tuition to nearly $38,976.[4]

Tuition costs[edit]

The minimum resident vs nonresident tuition for full time students in California's higher education institutions for the 2016-2017 academic school year are as follows: (keep in mind that tuition costs vary per campus due to specific campus-based costs)

  • California Community College system: $1,104 vs $3,360[5]
  • California State University system: $5,472 vs resident tuition plus an additional $372 per semester or $248 per quarter unit rate[6]
  • University of California system: $12,294 vs $38,976[7]

Eligibility Requirements[edit]

The requirements to be considered an AB 540 student are:[8][9]

  1. Must have attended a California high school for 3 or more academic years(does not have to be consecutive) OR obtained at least three years worth of High School academic credit in correlation with attendance to three years of elementary, middle or high school combined
  2. Must have graduated, or plan to graduate, high school or receive an equivalent certificate
  3. Must register or be currently enrolled in an accredited public institution of higher education in California
  4. Must file or plan to file an affidavit as required by individual institutions, stating that he/she will apply for legal residency as soon as he/she becomes eligible to do so
  5. Not hold a valid non-immigrant visa (including, but not limited to the following visas: A, B, C, D, E, F, T*, TN/TD, TWOV, U*, and NATO)

Bill History[edit]

The bill was originally introduced on February 21, 2001 by Assembly Members Firebaugh and Maldonado. It was principally co-authored by Elaine Alquist, and it was seen as an addition to the Education Code with regards to higher education. The bill was approved by Governor Gray Davis on October 12, 2001, and then filed with the Secretary of State on October 13, 2001.[10]

History of Anti-Undocumented Immigrant in Education[edit]

The issue of undocumented immigration and education became prevalent in the late 20th century. In the Plyler v Doe case of 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled that undocumented students can't be denied k-12 education due to their immigration status because they qualify as “persons” under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.[11] This was a response to discrimination against resource allocation for undocumented elementary school children in Texas.[12] After an attempt made by Texas to deny undocumented children education, Alabama passed a law that required schools to determine the immigrant status of children. This law caused there to be a higher rate of absence in Latino children. Then, Alabama tried to get rid of the Plyer case, but they got denied by the court system.[citation needed]

There have also been occurrences of anti-immigration movements with a focus on post-secondary education. The Federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 prohibits undocumented immigrants from in-state tuition. However, states have been able to overcome IIRIRA through the passage of legislature that allows any individual who meets guidelines to receive in-state tuition, one example being AB540.[13]

In California, Proposition 187 fought against the ability of undocumented immigrants to qualify for social services, such as education and health care. The proposition was passed but later challenged and found unconstitutional by the federal court.[12] It has been found that legislature similar to Prop 187 creates a criminal stigma for undocumented people, primarily through the identification of individuals as "illegal." [14]

States with similar legislature[edit]

In 2001, the first state to allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at post-secondary institutions was Texas. Soon after a wave of other states followed, such as California(2001), Washington(2003), Utah(2002), New Mexico(2005), New York(2001), Illinois(2003), Kansas(2004), Nebraska(2006), and Oklahoma(2004). Of these states only Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas offered state financial aid to undocumented students.[15][16]

As of 2014, the political landscape has changed with states fluctuating between support and disagreement of legislature in favor of undocumented immigrants.[13] The most notable changes were when Oklahoma removed any legislature in support of the education for undocumented students in 2008. Wisconsin took a similar stance in 2011, when they ended in-state tuition for undocumented students four years after their initial support.[17] On the contrary, states that have joined the movement to aid these students with tuition reduction include Connecticut (2011), Colorado(2013), Minnesota(2013), New Jersey(2013), and Oregon (2013). Maryland also passed similar legislature in 2011, but in addition to the general eligibility requirements, they require that applicants complete 60 credits or graduate from a state community college.[17]

In addition to providing in-state tuition rates, states like California, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota began providing state financial aid assistance to many eligible students.[13][18] Support for students to pursue their careers has gone beyond undergrad assistance. California has worked to remove barriers that prevent eligible undocumented individuals from attaining professional licenses in career paths such as Law and Architecture.[19]


  1. ^ "AB 540 | UCOP". Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  2. ^ Oliverez, Paz M.; Chavez, Maria Lucia; Soriano, Mayra; Tierney, William G. The College & Financial Aid Guide for: AB540 Undocumented Immigrant Students. Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis (CHEPA). 
  3. ^ "Higher Education in California: Student Costs (PPIC Publication)". Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  4. ^ "UC to freeze undergraduate tuition for CA residents for 2 years". ABC7 San Francisco. 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  5. ^ Corporation, XAP. "California Colleges - What will college cost my family?". Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  6. ^ "2016-17 Schedule of Systemwide Fees | Systemwide and Campus Mandatory Fees | Student Fees | Budget | CSU". Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  7. ^ "Tuition & cost of attendance | UC Admissions". Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  8. ^ "Access for all students: Overview of eligibility for AB540/2000, including those who may be undocumented" (PDF). 
  9. ^ "AB 540 nonresident tuition exemption | UC Admissions". Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  10. ^ "Bill List". Retrieved 2016-11-15. 
  11. ^ Olivas, Michael (2012). No Undocumented Child Left Behind. NYU Press – via EBSCOhost. 
  12. ^ a b Herrera, Lizette (2001). "Plyler v Doe". The Journal of contemporary legal issues. 
  13. ^ a b c "Removing barriers to higher education for undocumented students". 2014-01-01. 
  14. ^ Garcia, Ruben (1995). "Critical Race Theory and Proposition 187: The Racial Politics of Immigration Law". Chicano-Latino Law Review. 17 – via EBSCOhost. 
  15. ^ Martinez-Calderon, Carmen (2010-01-01). Out of the Shadows: An Inquiry into the Lives of Undocumented Latino AB540 Students (PDF) (Thesis). Berkeley, CA. 
  16. ^ Kaushal, Neeraj (2008). "In-State Tuition for the Undocumented: Education Effects on Mexican Young Adults". Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. 
  17. ^ a b Legislatures, National Conference of State. "In-State Tuition and Unauthorized Immigrant Students". Retrieved 2016-11-18. 
  18. ^ "New York State Assembly | Bill Search and Legislative Information". Retrieved 2016-10-27. 
  19. ^ Lara, Ricardo (2014). "Realizing the DREAM: Expanding Access to Professional Licenses for California's Undocumented Immigrants". Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy – via EBSCOhost.