Dreamer’s Arizona Tuition in Jeopardy.

Original article by Gabe Acosta

In Arizona, many “Dreamers” are worried after the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that they might not be eligible for in-state tuition. This is the result of a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Community College brought by state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, challenging their policy of letting undocumented immigrants benefit from cheaper tuition.

The people who will be hurt by this lawsuit are the “Dreamers”: people who were brought to the US without documentation as children.  Dreamers, as a group,  were until recently protected from deportation under the Obama Administration’s  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  

Before Brnovich’s lawsuit, Dreamers paid in-state tuition for public colleges. This will no longer be true since the court’s ruling.  While it might not sound like much, the difference between paying in-state and out of state tuition is substantial, especially for poorer families.

At the Maricopa colleges, county residents pay $86 for a credit hour. The out-of-state rate, which will now apply unless the ruling is overturned, is $241 per credit hour. With a typical two-year degree requiring 60 credits, the additional cost totals about $9,300. – Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, http://tucson.com

The court decided that the privileges and protections from deportation contained in DACA did not apply to the reduced tuition Dreamers had been paying for public colleges.

In a unanimous decision, the judges rejected the arguments by attorneys for the Maricopa County Community College District that students’ legal status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program means the federal government considers them to be legally present in the country. – Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, http://tucson.com

The reasoning for the Court’s decision is based on Proposition 300, which was passed in 2006. Judge Jones wrote for the majority (as reported):

Jones noted, however, that in 2006 Arizona voters approved Proposition 300, which says in-state tuition is reserved only for those with “lawful immigration status.” And he said the decisions by the Obama administration to let those who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain — and even to work — “do not translate into the recipient’s’ eligibility for in-state tuition or other state and local public benefits.” – Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, http://tucson.com

Public Colleges have responded to this by charging Dreamers more for their tuition, but they are doing it in a way conservatives would disagree with.

The policy says anyone who is a graduate of an Arizona high school but does not otherwise meet the definition of “residency” can attend any of the state’s three universities for 150 percent of what in-state students are charged. – Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services, http://tucson.com

The Board of Regents has argued that this is a fair price to charge for people who do not qualify for in-state tuition but graduated from state high schools. They point to other special college programs that have valued the fair price of college as 150% of in-state tuition.

This policy by the Board of Regents has prompted several conservative groups to consider lawsuits against this new policy. For now, the Maricopa College Board voted to appeal the Appellate Court’s decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. We wait now for a decision on the policy.

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