Bloomberg News

Illegal-Alien Tuition Breaks Allowed by U.S. Supreme Court

June 06, 2011

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a California law that makes illegal immigrants eligible for the reduced tuition paid at public colleges and universities by legal state residents.

The justices today turned away an appeal by a group of non- Californians who attend school in the state and pay as much as $20,000 per year more than residents. The students said 25,000 illegal aliens pay the lower tuition each year, costing the state $208 million.

California is one of nine states that make undocumented aliens eligible for in-state tuition, according to the suing students.

The case turned on a 1996 federal law that limits the power of states to offer reduced tuition to those in the country illegally. The law says illegal immigrants can’t claim lower tuition “on the basis of residence within a state” unless all U.S. citizens are similarly eligible.

The California law doesn’t explicitly tie the tuition of illegal aliens to their place of residency. The measure instead says those students are entitled to the lower tuition if they graduated from a California high school after having attended one for at least three years.

The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state law, saying it is based on “other criteria,” not residency.

The case is Martinez v. Regents of the University of California, 10-1029.

--Editors: Laurie Asseo, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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