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Illegal immigrants face tuition hikes in N.Y., breaks in California.

NEW YORK -- Almost a dozen students, professors and community activists staged a three-day fasting protest against the City University of New York's new policy raising the tuition of undocumented immigrant students.

Almost simultaneously, the regents of the University of California voted to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates

"We hope this will bring awareness to the severity of the problem," Bill Crain, who has taught psychology at the City College of New York for 32 years, said of the situation at his school.

The policy shift, which CUNY says will affect an estimated 2,000 students, raises the tuition of undocumented foreign students at two-year colleges by $288. Tuition for those at four-year colleges more than doubles, with an increase of $1,800.

"These students can't get $1,800 more. A lot of these students, they work in factories, they work for restaurants, and they work way below minimum wage, sometimes for $2 or $3 an hour with bosses who say, `If you don't like it, I'll tell the INS,'" Crain said. "These students have it very tough and they're very heroic, but there's no way they can make up the extra money. It's a very cruel thing that CUNY is doing."

The California measure, however, echoes legislation approved last year by Gov. Gray Davis and the state's Legislature, which extended in-state tuition to illegal immigrants at California State University campuses and state community colleges. The regents' decision allows students graduating from a California high school after three years of attendance to pay in-state tuition. Undocumented immigrants also would have to file for legalized status to qualify.

At CUNY, protesters included students and teachers, two students from Cornell University and a Mexican American labor leader. A half dozen protesters gathered outside the offices of CUNY's Upper East Side Board of Trustees Office.

Similar protests took place before California changed its policy, as 300 students staged a demonstration in favor of the legislation outside the building where the regents were meeting.

CUNY says it has had to raise the tuition it charges these students to comply with a federal law barring any preferential treatment for illegal immigrants.

The university, which announced the move late last year, had charged a lower, instate tuition to illegal immigrants who can show they have lived in New York state for at least a year. CUNY began to review the five-year-old federal law after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Beginning this semester, illegal foreigners must pay the higher, out-of-state rate.

Tuition for state residents is $1,250 per semester at CUNY's two-year community colleges and $1,600 per semester at its four-year colleges. Out-of-state tuition is $1,538 and $3,400 per semester at CUNY's two-year and four, year colleges, respectively.

CUNY does not require proof of a student's status and does not know exactly how many illegal immigrants are enrolled, but spokesman Michael Arena said the policy was likely to affect about 1 percent of CUNY's 200,000 students. Most of those are students at two-year colleges, where the rate hike is smaller, he said.

For a limited period, undocumented foreign students who cannot afford the higher rates will be able to claim hardship, allowing them to spread the cost out over the entire school year at no added interest, Arena said.

But Crain said that does little to counter the devastating impact of the hikes.
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Publication:Community College Week
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Feb 4, 2002
Words:568
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