Reduced Tuition for Illegal Immigrant Students in California

LOS ANGELES — In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that illegal immigrants can be eligible for the same reduced tuition at public colleges and universities as legal residents of the state.

The ruling is the latest in a series of high-profile battles about state immigration policies. In addition to Arizona’s strict new immigration law, which the United States Department of Justice has challenged in court, nine other states have laws similar to California’s, with lawsuits pending in Nebraska and Texas.

Currently, students who attend at least three years of high school in California and graduate are eligible for in-state tuition at public schools, which can save them as much as $12,000 a year compared with students who come from other states. Illegal immigrants remain ineligible for state or federal financial aid.

The California court ruled that the 2001 state law does not conflict with a federal prohibition on education benefits for illegal immigrants based on residency, in part because United States citizens from other states who attend high school in California may also benefit.

In California, Latinos now make up more than half of all students in public schools, according to the State Department of Education, and strong support from Latinos helped Democrats here fare better than they did in most other states in this year’s midterm elections.

Supporters of immigration overhaul hope that legislation that would offer some illegal immigrant students access to federal financial aid and a path toward citizenship will be taken up again in the lame-duck session of Congress that convened Monday.

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Reinhard von Hennigs