The California Supreme Court has boosted opportunities for undocumented high school graduates in that state by upholding a law that allows them to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.
The 7-0 ruling reversed the judgment of a California appeals court, which struck down the 2001 state law. Under the law, students lacking documentation of legal U.S. residence who attend a state high school for at least three years and graduate from that school have an opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates.
Ruling in the case Martinez v. the Regents of the University of California, the state high court held that the statute doesn’t violate a federal law that says undocumented immigrants can’t receive a postsecondary education benefit on the basis of residence within a state unless all U.S. citizens are also eligible for such a benefit, as opponents of the in-state-tuition law had contended. The court pointed out that the state law isn’t based on residence in California, but rather on other criteria, and thus doesn’t violate the federal law.
In their decision last month, the justices said the court had received arguments that the law “affords deserving students educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available and, conversely, arguments that it flouts the will of Congress, wastes taxpayers’ money, and encourages illegal immigration.”
The justices said they were not ruling on the merits of the in-state-tuition policy for undocumented students, but only on the legal question that arises from the policy.
“Whether Congress’ prohibition or the legislature’s exemption is good policy is not for us to say,” they wrote.
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as Calif. Supreme Court Upholds In-State Tuition Law