Governor Brown Signs Bill to Expand Landmark AB540 In-State Tuition Law for Nontraditional Students

October 05, 2017

Responding to stories of community college and nontraditional students who fell through the cracks

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 68, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), which expands the state’s landmark AB 540 (2001) to make undocumented students at community college and other programs eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid.

AB540 originally enabled undocumented students who graduated from and spent a minimum of three years in a California High School to qualify for in-state tuition. Previously, undocumented students who grew up in California were forced to pay international student fees because they could not establish legal residency.

SB 68 enables students to count years spent at a California Community College and adult education towards AB 540 eligibility. Additionally, the bill will allow the completion of an Associate’s Degree or satisfaction of the minimum requirements to transfer to the University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) to allow a student to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid.

“I am proud of our state’s role as an educational pioneer, and Senate Bill 68 expands our landmark in-state tuition law into so that more students can afford to pursue their educations,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Expanding in-state tuition to include community college and nontraditional students will make sure no students fall through the cracks.”

“Students’ will to succeed always amazes me, and as lawmakers it is our job to clear the way for them to go as far as their talents and drive can take them,” added Senator Lara.

Senator Lara helped draft AB540 as chief of staff for Assemblymember Marco Firebaugh, and it was signed into law in 2001.

Senator Lara authored SB 68 after hearing stories from students who were ineligible for AB 540.

Jacqueline Yanez, now a junior at UC Berkeley, came to the U.S. as a young child and moved to California at age 16. Though she finished high school and attended community college in California, she was ineligible for AB 540.

“It has been more than 5 years since I graduated from high school and I'm still fighting the financial barrier that impedes me from finishing my Bachelor’s degree,” Ms. Yanez said in March at a Senate Education Committee hearing. “SB 68 will not only benefit me but many other students in my situation to continue and finish their education.”

Michelle Alvarez emigrated at age 15 and graduated from high school in just two and a half years. After high school she attended community college for four years and received two associate’s degrees during that time. She recently graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in genetics and genomics, but despite her many years in California she paid out-of-state tuition.

“I cannot describe to you how difficult it was for my family and I to find out that my four years at community college meant nothing for my AB 540 eligibility,” Ms. Alvarez said at an Assembly Higher Education Committee meeting in July. “SB 68 would benefit many students like myself who want to contribute to the state but stop chasing their dreams because of a three-year high school requirement.”