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In California for years, but still can’t qualify for in-state tuition

In California for years, but still can’t qualify for in-state tuition


Zaeem Shaikh
May 18, 2022
Being a California resident can save you a lot of money at the University of California — about $30,000 in tuition per year.
At California State University, a non-resident student pays nearly $10,000 more than a California resident with the same 12-unit class load; at a community college, it can be up to about $7,500.
For more than 20 years, California has exempted many undocumented students from having to pay non-resident tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities. But gaps in the law mean that some undocumented students and visa holders still don’t qualify for in-state prices — even if they’ve lived in the state for more than a decade.
Now, state lawmakers are debating two bills that would make it easier for even more students to become eligible for in-state tuition. UC and Cal State could lose millions in revenue if one or both of the bills pass. But supporters say the bills would reduce equity gaps and increase access to an affordable higher education — especially critical, they say, when the state is enjoying a record budget surplus and students are recovering from a global pandemic.
Take the case of Sakshi Savale, a senior at San Jose State University. She didn’t have many options to choose from when she applied to college. Savale came to California in 2009, two years after her family immigrated to the U.S. from India.
California law allows undocumented immigrants and some others without legal California residency to be exempted from paying out-of-state tuition if they attended three years of a California high school, community college or adult school and received a diploma. Students eligible for the exemption can also qualify for the Cal Grant, the state’s main form of financial aid.
But Savale wasn’t undocumented. She was a dependent visa holder, which meant her stay in the U.S. was dependent on her father, a business consultant, who has a work-related visa.  While many colleges considered her an international student, San Jose State allowed her to pay in-state tuition, saving her family tens of thousands of dollars. That changed this school year, however, after Savale turned 21 and had to switch to a student visa. Now the university says she has a backlog of about $1,500 in fees from the fall that she must pay before she can receive her diploma.
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