AB-540 allows decreased tuition cost for student immigrants

PATRICK MARAVELIAS, Channels Staff

Santa Barbara High School held a meeting tonight informing prospective college students about Assembly Bill 540. The bill, created in 2001 by Governor Gray Davis, would allow certain student immigrants to pay in-state tuition for California colleges.

Student immigrants who have accrued at least three years worth of California high school credits would qualify for both in-state tuition, as well as numerous scholarships and financial aid opportunities that would otherwise be denied to them due to their citizenship status.

“It’s our opportunity to share resources with the community and provide the information that is reaching an important population,” said Adrienne Arguijo-Morgan, coordinator of the Pathways Program and AB-540 College Night participant for 10 years.

Pushback to AB-540 from the new Republican Congress has raised concerns over the bill’s future, and whether or not immigrant students will be able to receive the same aid in the near future.

“Republicans are always trying to take money from people,” said Laura Ronchietto, representative to AB-540 night from Immigration Services. “It’s to be expected.”

If the Republican congressmen are successful in their efforts, it could mean a significant decrease in the number of immigrants who are able to attend college.

On the contrary, push back to the bill could also mean lower tax rates for California citizens.

The night included information about both the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability programs, both of which provide temporary immunity from deportation of children and parents of children who have accrued a substantial amount of time in California schools.

The childhood arrivals program has existed since June 2012 but the parental accountability program doesn’t go into effect until May 29 of this year, meaning 2015 is bringing with it never-before-seen opportunities for student immigrants.

The parental accountability program applies to parents of children qualified for AB-540, and provides a tentative three-year asylum from deportation so that students who are dedicated to going to school can keep their families together.

According to Rebecca Plotkin of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, the aggregate cost of attending California colleges is continuously rising, and can range from $10,000 to $55,000 depending on the school.

This number looks a lot less threatening for immigrant families thanks to programs like AB-540, the California Dream Act, and the continued efforts of local committees who bring this information to people who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of it.