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Letter to the editor re: AB 540, as published in the Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2009

Education for all students

Re “High court to consider tuition law,” Jan. 5

While your coverage regarding California state law AB 540 has highlighted some important issues, I'd like to underscore that the law -- and good policy -- dictate that we not discriminate against undocumented students who reside in California when offering in-state tuition to California high school graduates.

We must keep in mind that most, if not all, undocumented students who are eligible for admission to California's public institutions were not adults when their families brought them here. Many who may qualify for amnesty and naturalization programs have been unable to tap those opportunities because they lack access to sound legal advice.

I have met several of UCLA's AB 540 students who -- in addition to a few undocumented immigrants -- are citizens or foreign nationals who attended California high schools. They are impressive young adults. They will become doctors, engineers and teachers, and they are passionate in their intent to give back to our communities. If we charge them out-of-state tuition, we will rob them of an educational opportunity that they have earned through hard work, and we will lose the benefit of their extraordinary drive and commitment.

The nation is looking to California for leadership on this critical issue, which is now before the California Supreme Court. We must continue to provide educational opportunity for all of the state's students. I believe that California's future depends on it.

Gene D. Block

The writer is chancellor of UCLA.

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