Immigration Direct

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AB 540 California State Bill

AB 540 Bill

What is AB 540?

California allows its students to pay a more affordable local price to attend state college regardless of whether the students have immigration status. This practice is known as AB 540 in California, and 13 states have similar laws.

College tuition in the U.S. costs significantly less for students who are residents of the state where the college is located. Most states charge a higher non-resident price to students who don't have immigration status, even if the student lived in and attended high school in the state.

In 2001, California Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540). AB 540 makes California students without immigration status eligible for in-state tuition at public higher education schools including the University of California, California State Universities and California Community Colleges.

Applying for AB 540

To apply for in-state college tuition in California, students without immigration status show they meet the following requirements:

  • Attended a California high school— for three or more full academic years between Grades 9 through 12 (The years don't have to be consecutive.)
  • Completed high school education—by graduating from a California high school, receiving a G.E.D. or passing the California High School Proficiency Exam
  • Enrolled or will register in higher education—at an accredited California public higher education school
  • Filed or will file an AB 540 affidavit—showing the student will apply for legal residence as soon as they're able
  • Don't have immigration status—showing the student doesn't have a valid visa

Applying for college financial aid

Though AB 540 doesn't make students eligible to receive money directly from the state to help pay for higher education, several programs do offer financial assistance to California students without immigration status.

Here are a few programs that offer financial assistance to students without status, or based on a student's personal experience or the college they're attending, regardless of the student's immigration status:

  • Students showing financial need or commitment to community—Association of Raza Educators
  • Students without status in the Bay Area—Bay Area Gardener's Foundation
  • Latina women in Northern California—Chicana/Latina Foundation
  • Students in the East Bay Area (primarily Oakland) from low-income families and communities with historically low college attendance—East Bay College Fund
  • Students without immigration status, from low-income families in the Bay Area—New American Scholars Program
  • Latino students who pledge and complete community service—Fulfilling Our Dreams Scholarship Fund
  • Students who are current or former foster youth—California Chafee Grant Program
  • Students attending Glendale Community College—Financial assistance for AB 540 Students
  • Students attending the University of California at Berkley—Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership scholarships

In addition to California, at least 13 states allow their students without immigration status to pay the local price for college: Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. A few states also allow students without status to apply for financial aid.