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LACC Urges Illegal Immigrants to Register : Education: College hopes to forestall requiring students who are not legal residents to pay the same tuition as out-of-state students.

December 12, 1991|AMY LOUISE KAZMIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a last-ditch effort to forestall a state policy to make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition for community college classes, admissions advisers at Los Angeles City College are hurriedly signing up prospective students for fall classes they did not intend to take.

So far, college officials said, 88 students have enrolled in one-unit, short-term classes that began in November and, with the deadline for those classes approaching Friday, administrators are also trying to set up a new fall semester class in personal development to begin in January. Taking the fall classes will allow the students to avoid paying hundreds of dollars in tuition when they enroll as regular students in the spring.

The hike in their fees comes at the order of the California Community Colleges' governing board, which instructed officials in the state's two-year colleges to require illegal immigrants enrolling as new students this spring to pay non-resident tuition. The fee for such students at the Los Feliz campus will go up from $6 per unit to $112 per unit, plus a $60 registration fee.

Ann Reed, vice chancellor for public affairs for the state community colleges, said the governing board changed the policy in response to a court ruling that held that illegal immigrants could not be considered state residents to qualify for lower tuition at the University of California.

State community college officials decided that ruling also applied to the two-year colleges and ordered the colleges to comply with the decision, Reed said.

Until now, anyone who could show a year's residency in California was allowed the lower rate regardless of immigration status.

Officials at LACC estimate that 1,200 of its students, or about 9% of total enrollment, are immigrants who cannot prove legal U.S. residency. The new policy, which applies only to new students entering this spring, would have affected about 300 new illegal immigrants, said Marilyn Moy, dean of admissions at LACC.

Conceding that efforts to enroll students for fall classes will help only a fraction of the illegal immigrants who will be affected in coming years, Moy said campus officials have been determined to spread the word of the policy change as widely as possible.

"Its a moral issue," she said.

LACC President Jose Robledo said he supports his staff's efforts to help prospective students circumvent the higher fees, which he said will ultimately bar many people from pursuing their educations.

"We have an interest in serving the needs of the community, and if the community consists of people who are undocumented, don't we have a responsibility to serve their needs also?" he said. "It's a social issue."

In their efforts, campus officials have also worked closely with high school college counselors to alert graduating seniors of the policy change.

"If a person of this classification comes in, we try to get them into classes this semester," Moy said.

That option may end Friday, the last day that students can sign up for one of three short-term personal development classes that began in the middle of last month. However, college officials are still trying to set up one more short-term class that will start after the winter break.

Students in the January class would be able to qualify for resident tuition for spring semester classes, said Myrna Siegel, dean of student services. Siegel said officials will decide next week whether they will offer the course.

"We're trying to put a class together, if we can find a room and a time to set it in," Siegel said.

Reed said state officials will not attempt to stop colleges such as LACC from their efforts to help students avoid the fee increase.

"They have some wiggle room," she said.

She added that most state officials were reluctant to change the tuition policy, and they did so only because they feared lawsuits against the college system.

"It is not the way we would choose to do business," Reed said. "The community colleges serve as the entry way for immigrants in this country who need to improve language skills and citizenship skills, and we hate to see that eroded in any way."

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