Some Mexicans living near the California border will be eligible for in-state tuition fees at certain community colleges under new laws signed in by the state’s governor.
The legislation will apply to low-income Mexicans who live within 45 miles of the Mexico-California border.
The pilot program, which will launch next year and run until 2029, is designed to “drive economic growth” and “create new job opportunities” in California’s border communities and contribute to the state’s workforce development.
Laws expanding affordable tuition to Mexicans already exist in other border states including Texas and New Mexico.
An estimated 170,000 people cross the border between Southern California and Mexico’s Baja California daily.
David Alvarez, who chaired the initial proposal, said the program would remove “the barrier of high tuition expenses for low-income students”.
“This pilot program can unlock a significant untapped resource to prepare a more diverse population among our workforce,” he added.
The bill allows eight colleges in the region to permit 150 students each.
Mark Sanchez, superintendent and president of Southwestern College, described the law as “transformational”. Students who attend the institution under the program will reportedly pay around $1,400 in tuition fees, as opposed to the approximately $6,000 in out-of-state fees.
“Our binational students will be better equipped to enter our workforce”
“By expanding affordable access to our region’s community colleges, our binational students will be better equipped to enter our workforce and be a part of this thriving binational economy,” he said.
But Bill Wells, the mayor of Californian city El Cajon, opposed the move, calling it a “disservice” to American students “grappling with exorbitant college debt burdens”.
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