California becomes latest state to grant Mexico residents living near the border access to in-state tuition

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new law granting Mexico residents who live within 45 miles of the Mexico-California border access to in-state tuition at eight community colleges, The Los Angeles Times reports. The legislation, Assembly Bill 91, creates a “nonresident fee exemption” for 150 Mexico students at each of the eight eligible community colleges in the San Diego and Imperial Valley area.

The legislation was inspired by similar laws in at least 24 states that offer in-state tuition to eligible students, regardless of their immigration status, who attended secondary schools in the U.S. for at least three years. It aims to support the binational “mega-region” of Southern California and the Mexico municipalities in Baja California, “the largest integrated economic zone along the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to a report from the University of San Diego. Many people within the region cross the border for work or to visit family members, the Associated Press reports.

“There are students who might actually be U.S. citizens but happen to be living in the Baja region because of the cost of living,” David Alvarez (D-Chula Vista), a California Assemblymember who introduced the bill, told The Times. “[T]here are some students who find themselves in that situation who don’t have a California residence because families can’t afford to live here.”

Students living in Mexico eligible for the fee exemption would be charged $1,380 a year in community college tuition, compared to $10,380 a year, according to a legislative analysis cited by The Times. Advocates for the bill hope it will prepare diverse students to participate in and grow California’s workforce.

The new law outlines a five-year pilot program starting next year and ending July 2029. It requires partner institutions to submit reports to lawmakers by 2028 showing the demographics and attendance of participating students, the Associated Press reports. It also states that there must also be a partner university in Mexico’s Baja California region that offers reduced tuition for California students attending that school, according to The Times.

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