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AB 540 Handbook

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A Professional Development Project for Faculty and Staff
California State University, Long Beach

California State University, Long Beach celebrates over a decade of sustained efforts on the part of many people across the campus working to improve retention and graduation, the quality of the student experience, support for faculty, technological infrastructure and the physical campus. CSULB now aims to achieve still greater distinction in four areas: student success, academic quality, service excellence, and campus environment. Student success is identified as a priority in several policy and strategy documents and its main goal is to increase student retention and graduation with highly valued degrees. In the AB 540 Ally Training Project, the University will focus on improving undocumented immigrant student success.

Undocumented Students

Enrollment rates for undocumented college students are miniscule because very few states allow for eligibility for in-state tuition and/or financial aid. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that “each year about 65,000 U.S. raised students” that are undocumented are eligible for college.[1]. Undocumented students in higher education tend to be the strivers, many not realizing until they apply to college that they are undocumented. They are Americanized, having entered the United States at an early age. By definition students who qualify for AB 540 came to the United States as minors. The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that these children should be allowed access to a public school education (K-12) free of charge. Undocumented children are in California public schools and are indistinguishable from children who are US-born and lawful permanent residents. Advocates for undocumented students assert that these children must be taken out of the “immigration wars.” Several states, including California have taken measures to assist these students to attend college and continue their academic success and there is a movement in Congress to allow students to earn residency and eventually citizenship once they succeed in a postsecondary education program.

Undocumented students have special needs. If they qualify under California Education Code § 68130.5[2], which specifies that they must have gone to a California high school for three years and graduated, they qualify to pay in-state tuition rather than out-of-state tuition. This group is usually referred to as AB 540 students, for the bill that authorized the eligibility. Those that are undocumented and attended less than three years pay out-of-state tuition. None of the undocumented students are eligible for California or federal financial aid, may not work on campus, and are not eligible to apply for paid state and federal internships or fellowships. They are also not eligible for drivers’ licenses and many other benefits. Life for these students is much more restricted than for any other group.

An early 2006 study done by CSULB Institutional Research revealed that 200 of CSULB students are undocumented. The CSU and the CCC do not track the numbers of AB 540 students. The University of California does report data on the number of undocumented students[3]. For the entire UC system the total number of undocumented students for the same time period (2005-2006) is 390. Of that total, 380 enrolled as undergraduates and 10 as graduate students. UC undocumented students tend to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, with parent income reported less than $40,000. Of the UC undergraduates, 161 were Chicano, 37 Latino, 29 Chinese, 80 Korean and 16 Filipino. Whites represented 18 and unknown 13. Among the rest of the Asian group were also included smaller numbers of Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian/Pakistan, Pacific Islander, Thai and other Asian.

“Immigrant youth do not typically receive much research attention.”[4] So it is not surprising that higher education has not studied nor noted the fluctuation in their enrollment. The mission of the State Universities, however, requires

attention to this population. It is important to learn more about them, to identify the significance causes for the shift in enrollment, and see how research proven best practices can enhance their access and success in higher education. Importantly, professional development for faculty advisors and staff is a request from a support group of immigrant students, some who are undocumented, and shared that the university cannot serve them well when employees are not aware of the extenuating circumstances that undocumented students confront. Embarrassment, frustration, and fear of revealing their personal situations often result in students not disclosing their immigration information. They fear that an employee may not be sympathetic to their particular situation. It is the students’ belief that training will improve the campus climate for immigrant students.

The training will address the status of undocumented immigrant students enrolled at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) by engaging the faculty and staff to become informed about the status of undocumented immigrant students at CSULB and, apprised of best student success practices and other resources. A secondary outcome is to create a model that can be used in other venues, particularly by other professionals that also need to learn about undocumented immigrant students, the laws that impinge upon student lives, and policies and practices that can contribute to their academic success. Participants will learn the following:

  • What are the requirements for AB 540 and how does it impact the students?
  • How do AB 540 students experience the campus?
  • Which academic and out of classroom support practices show the most promise for immigrant students?
  • What is the Dream Act?

Program Goals

The goals of the AB 540 Ally Training are to:
Create a welcoming and supportive campus environment for undocumented immigrant students, thus assisting their integration into campus life.
Increase faculty and staff knowledge and effectiveness about the needs, concerns, and issues of undocumented immigrant students and their families
Educate faculty and staff about relevant immigration laws impacting students and related student issues and challenges.

AB 540 Ally Handbook

The AB 540 Ally Handbook is designed to increase the effectiveness of faculty and staff that advise AB 540 students. It is a complement to the AB 540 Resource Guide for Advisors of Undocumented Students. The AB 540 Ally Handbook is provided to faculty and staff that participate in the AB 540 Ally training. Upon successful completion of the training, the Ally is awarded an AB 540 Ally decal to post in his/her immediate work area. The decal informs the reader that the professional is sensitive to and informed about the educational needs of undocumented immigrant students.


The information in this handbook is general in nature and serves as a guide. Some of the campus information is subject to change without notice. Some sections of the Ally Handbook have verbatim wording from the campus catalog or web based forms.

Immigration laws are complex, subject to change, and broad in their interpretation. This is not an immigration guide. Immigration questions should be referred to an immigration attorney.