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California Supreme Court hears case that would bar illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition at public colleges

October 5, 2010 |  1:03 pm

The California Supreme Court appeared skeptical Tuesday of a lawsuit that would end in-state tuition for an estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants who attend the state's public universities and colleges.

The court is reviewing an appeals court ruling that said the state is barred by federal immigration law from giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition, which can be as much as $19,000 a year cheaper than fees charged to out-of-state students.

At issue is a 2001 state law that provides the lower tuition for students, including illegal immigrants, who attend and graduate from a California high school.

A lawsuit before the court contends that the state requirement is preempted by a federal law that prohibits states from using residency requirements to give educational benefits to illegal immigrants when the benefit is not also offered to citizens.

During a special session in Fresno, some of the justices noted that the state law provided benefits to citizens as well as illegal immigrants. Out-of-state citizens who attend high school in California also are eligible for the lower in-state college tuition under the law.

"It doesn't say anything about residence," Justice Joyce L. Kennard said.

The case was brought by a conservative group on behalf of out-of-state students who paid higher tuition at California colleges than illegal immigrants who graduated from California high schools.

A ruling is expected within 90 days. If the court upholds the state law, the case is expected to be appealed to the more conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

-- Maura Dolan in Fresno

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