Undocumented students get tuition advice

Julie Drechsler

Undocumented students filled the San Marcos High School Auditorium Wednesday to learn about a state law that allows them to pay resident tuition at public colleges and universities.

More than 150 students attended the event, which was hosted by the Santa Barbara School District, Santa Barbara City College and in collaboration with the Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success group, also known as IDEAS.

“In this event, we want to educate students about the law and to encourage them that higher education is a possibility,” said Michael Medel, coordinator of the admission outreach at City College.

As part of a statewide effort to create educational equality with immigrant students, the IDEAS group participates in several different events that encourage students to seek higher education.

The group is also involved in the State legislature, and has worked with several local politicians in promoting the bill.

“Being an undocumented student can be hard at times, and this organization gives students a chance to talk to people in the same situation as themselves,” a member of the club, who wants to remain anonymous, said.

California Assembly Bill 540 allows immigrant students, who have attended a California high school for three years and have received a diploma, to be exempt from paying out-of state tuition fees.

Instead of paying out-of-state tuition fees of $173 per unit, eligible students will only pay the $20 per unit fee that residents pay.

Given their immigration status, undocumented students face many struggles in affording higher education, because they cannot apply for financial aid and many scholarships, which the bill helps with.

Counselors from City College provided information about how to apply for the resident tuition. In addition, the IDEAS group talked about its work on trying to improve the situation for undocumented students at City College.

At the event, parents were also given the opportunity to speak about their experiences and how this bill has changed their life.

“Undocumented students attending high school don’t always know that higher education is an option for them,” said Lydia Aguirre-Fuentes, academic counselor at City College in an e-mail to The Channels.

Aguirre-Fuentes said that this often leads to students not graduating from high school, which enables them to enroll in the program.

Through fundraising efforts, IDEAS is also trying to establish scholarships for immigrant students applying at City College. Currently, IDEAS consists of 12 members, and they are constantly trying to recruit new affiliates.