California Bill Allowing Mexico Residents to Pay In-State Tuition at Community Colleges Poised to Become Law

California Bill Allowing Mexico Residents to Pay In-State Tuition at Community Colleges Poised to Become Law
Students walk to summer classes at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., on June 29, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Micaela Ricaforte
10/3/2023
Updated:
10/9/2023
0:00

A California bill that would make tuition more affordable for some low-income residents of Mexico to attend local community colleges in the state is one step away from becoming law.

Assembly Bill 91, introduced by Assemblyman David Alvarez (D-San Diego), would create a pilot program allowing Mexico residents who live within 45 miles of the California border to pay in-state tuition to attend one of nine campuses in the San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties Community College Association.

The program would begin in fall 2024, become inoperative by July 2028, and be repealed by January 2029, unless it is renewed by legislators.

When he introduced the bill in January, Mr. Alvarez’s office stated that according to San Diego economic development leaders, the county must “double the amount of people with post-secondary education by 2030 to meet the demands of the local economy.”

That equates to approximately 20,000 new skilled workers each year, Alvarez’s office said.

“San Diego County has a robust $250 billion to $300 billion annual economy, but the fact of the matter is that the region is facing the same staffing shortages plaguing California and the nation. This is especially true in fields like nursing, emergency services and behavioral health,” Mr. Alvarez said in a March Assembly Higher Education Committee analysis.
 The neighborhood around Casas De Dios foster home, in Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The neighborhood around Casas De Dios foster home, in Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Alvarez continued that passing the bill would “allow these students to enter the local workforce, where they would contribute to San Diego County’s thriving economy and ensure that the region remains an international player for years to come.”

Students in the program would pay in-state tuition—which is $46 per credit—instead of the $346 per-credit fee for non-residents. Since a full-course load is between 12 and 15 credits per semester, annual tuition fees would amount to between $1,104 and $1,380, according to the analysis.

Additionally, in order to take effect, the governing board of the California Community Colleges must enter into a similar in-state tuition agreement with a university in Baja California, Mexico, to allow California residents to attend the school with residential tuition rates as well.

The bill was modeled on an agreement that allows up to 200 students from Nevada to attend California’s Lake Tahoe Community College.

It received support from many regional education groups—such as California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, Community College League of California, San Diego Community College District, as well as the Governor of Baja California—and no recorded opposition as of early September.

Assembly Bill 91 was passed in a 65–8 vote by the state Assembly in May and passed the Senate in a 33–6 vote in early September. The bill was sent on Sept. 15 to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until Oct. 14 to approve it.

This comes as enrollment in California’s community colleges fell to its lowest in 30 years, after an 18 percent drop from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The state’s 115 community colleges lost about 340,000 students from 2019 to 2022, according to enrollment data released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

Both the Los Angeles and San Diego community college districts saw a 25 percent enrollment drop after spring 2019, according to the Chancellor’s Office.

However, attendance may be starting to recover, since the chancellor reported enrollment went up this past spring by 8 percent. However, the numbers are still down 16 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

A spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office told The Epoch Times in late 2022 that there were concerns about the schools’ ability to meet the needs of California's workforce and economy, and officials were working to boost enrollment by “re-imagining” financial aid packages, emergency grants, and scholarships.

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.