AB 540 expansion offers discounted education options

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

Eligibility requirements for undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and financial aid throughout the state of California has been expanded under Senate Bill 68.

Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown back in October, SB 68 broadens the qualifications of Assembly Bill 540 to include three years spent at a California Community College, adult school or secondary school.

Students can use a combination of any of these educational institutions to qualify.

“I am proud of our state’s role as an educational pioneer, and Senate Bill 68 expands our landmark in-state tuition law so that more students can afford to pursue their educations,” California Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said in an Oct. 5 press release. “Expanding in-state tuition to include community college and nontraditional students will make sure no students fall through the cracks.”

Lara who authored SB 68 also played a role in drafting AB 540 before its 2001 milestone decision.

“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,” Lara said.

Additionally, SB 68 will allow students to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid upon completion of an associate degree or satisfaction of the minimum requirements to transfer to the University of California or California State University.

Previously, to qualify for AB540, undocumented students were required to spend a minimum of three years and graduate from a California high school or receive a General Education Diploma (GED).

For those who do not meet AB 540 requirements, the annual out of state cost of attending Contra Costa College is estimated at $7,924.

This includes $46 per course unit, plus $228 in tuition per unit, as well as a $26 capital overlay fee which brings the total to $302 per unit.

The difference in price between in-state and out-of-state fees is often the barrier that prevents students from pursuing their educational goals.

“There were many students who were missing out on AB 540 because they only had one or two years of high school completed in California,” CCC Director of Admissions and Records Catherine Frost said. “The expanded institution list has created many new opportunities for students. It shows that our government is supportive and understands their needs.”

The shift in policy is expected to increase the number of students who are able to take advantage of the bill leaving counseling departments across the state to prepare for a potential influx of students.

Counselors also hope to inform students who may not yet be aware of the changes to AB 540.

Counseling department Chairperson Sarah Boland said Frost came to the department meeting on April 11 to discuss the expansion of AB 540 and what it means for the large undocumented community at CCC.

“We didn’t discuss the opportunities to reach out to students,” she said. “I will definitely bring the question up at our next meeting.”

Boland along with faculty and staff in the counseling department have continued their training on issues that plague the undocumented community since the election of President Donald Trump.

“There’s more advocacy for all of our students but particularly those who are most vulnerable,” Boland said. “Really it comes down to looking at the ways we can get this new information out to students.”

An updated form that reflects the expansion of AB 540 was sent to the counseling department via e-mail on Jan. 31.

Boland said that the counseling department is ready to handle the effects of the expansion of AB 540.

“We needed the training that Catherine (Frost) provided for us,” she said. “It’s a process moving forward to now relay the information to students.”