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about maldef

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is a national civil rights organization founded in 1968. Its principal objective is to promote the civil rights of the 47 million Latinos living in the United States through litigation, advocacy and education.

MALDEF’s National Headquarters:

634 S. Spring St.

Los Angeles, CA 90014

(213) 629-2512

goals for today
Goals for Today:

1.) To provide you with information on how you can attend college regardless of your immigration status.

2.) To provide you with information on financial assistance for college regardless of your immigration status.

3.) To encourage you to pursue your dreams of obtaining a college or graduate school education.

Sigue adelante! You can face your obstacles with strength, knowledge and perseverance. Your future is in your hands.

background on undocumented students and education
Background on Undocumented Students and Education
  • 1982: Plyler v. Doe

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a Texas law which authorized school districts to bar undocumented students from public elementary and secondary schools.

The Court noted that this law would impose a “lifetime of hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status.”

Undocumented student access to elementary and secondary education is protected by the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. All children, including undocumented children, can attend public elementary and secondary school free of charge.

Plyler did not address the question of postsecondary education.

why ab 540
Why AB 540?
  • Before AB 540, undocumented students, who under state law are not-California residents, had to pay higher tuition fees than California residents for state colleges and universities (i.e., out-of-state tuition).
  • Some undocumented students had been living in California for most of their lives, giving to their community and graduating from a California high school. However, they could not afford the out-of-state tuition college fees. Some have paths to adjust their immigration status, and others do not.
  • AB 540 addressed this problem by allowing undocumented students the opportunity to be exempt from paying out-of-state tuition.
  • Federal law specifically allows for the kind of out-of-statetuition waivers offered by AB 540.
what is ab 540
What is AB 540?
  • It is a California law that allows all qualifying students, including U.S. citizens, legal Permanent Residents and undocumented immigrants, a waiver of the non-resident tuition requirements.
  • Undocumented students who meet the requirements of AB 540 pay the equivalent of in-state tuition at all public colleges and universities in California.
  • AB 540 does not create eligibility for state or federal financial aid.
  • AB 540 does not create a path to adjust your immigration status.
who qualifies for ab 540
Who qualifies for AB 540?

1.) You must have attended a high school in California for three or more years.

2.) You must have graduated from a California high school or attained the equivalent of a high school diploma (e.g., passed the GED, or CA H.S. Proficiency Exam).

3.) You must register or currently be enrolled in a campus of one of the three state institutions of higher learning (Community College, Cal State or UC).

4.) You must file an affidavit (a written promise) with the college or university stating you meet the law’s requirements and that you have filed an application to legalize your immigration status or will do so as soon as you are eligible. This includes students who currently have no path for adjusting immigration status.

(The privacy of information a student shares with a college or university is protected by federal and state law.)

why is ab 540 important
Why is AB 540 Important?

Cost Difference

  • In the past, undocumented students were charged out-of-state tuition. AB 540 allows qualified students to be exempt from paying out-of-state tuition, which is equivalent to paying in-state tuition.
  • The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition* is significant:

California Community Colleges

$20/unit (in-state) $173/unit (out-of-state)

California State University (per year)

$3,797 (in-state) $13,967 (out-of-state)

University of California (per year)

$8,007 (in-state) $28,615 (out-of-state)

  • * These rates are effective for the 2008-2009 academic year. The fees are tuition only and may not include additional enrollment fees.
what are the common problems ab 540 students face
What are the Common Problems AB 540 Students Face?
  • Difficulty financing their education.
  • Administrative difficulties in receiving the AB 540 waiver.
  • Accessing the Affidavit form.
  • Hostility and discrimination against undocumented students.
  • Increasingly, due to their immigration status, college graduates who are undocumented lack the ability to find employment where they can utilize their college education.
what are the financial problems ab 540 students face
What are the Financial Problems AB 540 Students Face?
  • College is increasingly expensive.
  • AB 540 does not provide financial aid to undocumented students.
  • Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid.
  • AB 540 students must seek private scholarships and other resources to fund their education.
  • Using public benefits, such as financial aid, when the person is undocumented is prohibited by law and may jeopardize their ability to adjust their immigration status in the future. If you are receiving financial aid and you are not supposed to, you should seek legal advice.
how can ab 540 students finance their education
How can AB 540 Students Finance their Education?
  • Donations:
    • Ask for donations from former teachers, principals, etc. Many people are willing to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Scholarships:

Undocumented students are eligible for many private scholarships. For scholarship information check out;

  • Fundraisers:

For example: local community markets, car washes, bake sales, and dances. Get together with other AB 540 students and fundraise together.

know your rights tips to overcome administrative difficulties
Know Your Rights!Tips to Overcome Administrative Difficulties
  • Students are often the best advocates. Inform school administrators and personnel about your rights!
  • You cannot be denied admission to a California college or university based on your immigration status.
  • You are not required to show a state issued ID and/or social security card to apply for admission to a public college or university.
  • If you qualify for AB 540, you are not required to pay out-of-state, international, capital outlay or penalty fees (which may be charged to out-of-state and international students) to enroll at a California college or university.
  • You are not required to show proof of legal residency status or proof of application for legal residency status.
  • Some college staff may be unaware of AB 540 or may interpret the law incorrectly. Know your rights and stand up for yourself!
connect to other ab 540 students
Connect to Other AB 540 Students
  • AB 540 students are a great resource and many have organized AB 540 groups on their college campuses. Check out:
  • Talk to Chicana/o Studies Department staff for assistance.
  • Talk to support/outreach programs at college campuses.
some frequently asked questions about ab 540
Some Frequently Asked Questions About AB 540

Q: Is the process for applying to college for undocumented students any different when applying under AB 540?

A: For all UCs and most Cal States, you must apply in November of the year before you plan to enroll. Two sections of your college application must be left blank:

1) Social Security Number box should be left

BLANK (unless you have a VALID social security number issued by the Social Security Administration that may be used for purposes other than work). You should never use an ITIN in place of a social security number.

2) Immigration Status box should be left BLANK.

some frequently asked questions about ab 54015
Some Frequently Asked Questions About AB 540

Q: Can I use a false social security number on my application?

A: No! It is illegal to use a false social security number on a college or financial aid application. Using false information can jeopardize your ability to legalize your immigration status in the future.

Q: What if I have already given the school a false SS# or other false information?

A: If you qualify for AB 540 but have falsified information you should seek legal advice from a licensed immigration attorney.

some frequently asked questions about ab 54016
Some Frequently Asked Questions About AB 540

Q: I heard that AB 540 was challenged in a law suit? Is AB 540 still available?

A: Martinez v. UC Regents is a case that was filed in 2005 challenging the constitutionality of AB 540 under federal law. The case is currently being reviewed by the California Supreme Court. Please refer to for more information about the status of the case. In the meantime, AB 540 REMAINS in full force and effect and the legal challenge does not prevent eligible students from applying for or receiving an out-of-state tuition waiver under AB 540. You should not be discouraged from pursuing your dreams of attaining a college education.

possible solutions
Possible Solutions
  • Federal DREAM Act.
  • State law to allow AB 540 students to qualify for state financial aid.
    • - California DREAM Act
  • Comprehensive immigration reform that creates a realistic and humane path for naturalization.
a few things to keep in mind
A Few Things to Keep in Mind…
  • Undocumented students who have questions about legal residency should consult a licensed immigration attorney.
  • Contact your local bar association or the American Immigration Lawyers Association for referrals to licensed immigration attorneys. Beware of immigration fraud and consider a second legal opinion.
  • Immigration laws are always changing. One day you may have the opportunity to legalize your status, even if your situation offers no path to legalization under current immigration law.
  • There are many AB 540 students who are attending college or have graduated from UCLA, Cal State, etc. Do not give up! Your future is in your hands.

MALDEFMexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund634 S. Spring Street, 11th FloorLos Angeles, CA  90014(213) 629-2512  (213) 629 0830