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In Arizona, students no longer have to be ‘lawfully present’ to get reduced tuition rate

Board of Regents revised policy after state supreme court decision last year

A state university board of regents recently passed a policy to allow a special tuition rate benefiting undocumented students, a move apparently meant to counter a state supreme court decision last year that struck down in-state rates for illegal immigrants.

In 2018, The College Fix reported on the Arizona Supreme Court’s striking down in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrant students. That ruling had left in place a lower tuition option for students covered under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The new rule extends the lower rate to a broader class of students in the country illegally.

A press release from the Arizona Board of Regents stated that the governing body “approved a revision to its Non-Resident Tuition Rate for Arizona High School Graduates policy that will ensure more Arizona high school graduates are eligible for the discounted non-resident tuition rate, a non-subsidized rate that covers the cost of education.”

“The current policy requires that students be lawfully present in Arizona to be eligible for the rate. The lawful presence criterion was not required by state or federal law. By approving the proposed revision, this requirement is eliminated,” the press release adds.

Reached via email, Arizona Board of Regents spokeswoman Julie Newberg told The College Fix: “The Arizona high school graduate non-resident rate is for those students who are not eligible for in-state tuition, for example because they left the state and lost Arizona residency or because they are not eligible under law as undocumented students.”

“A student who has lost residency due to leaving the state may also return and reestablish Arizona residency to become eligible for the resident tuition rate,” she added.

The Arizona Board of Regents governs Arizona’s public universities: Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona. The board provides policy guidelines for a variety of issues, including student tuition rates.

Sharply reduced rates for illegal immigrant students

Before the recent approval of the new rate, undocumented students not covered by DACA were paying the out-of-state tuition rate, which is around $30,000. The in-state tuition rate is approximately $11,000 and the non-resident tuition rate is aboutt $16,000.

Karina Ruiz, the president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, praised the regents’ decision.

“The law of Arizona prevents the Board of Regents from providing in-state tuition for undocumented or DACA students. We are grateful that the Arizona Board of regents took a step in the right direction. They sent a message,” Ruiz told The Fix via phone.

“We are working to tell our stories to the citizens that can vote so they can make that difference and make that change,” Ruiz continued. She added: “If they change the legislature to be more understanding instead of just saying ‘Oh, it’s the law,’ those are the type of candidates we want. I don’t care if they are Democrat or Republican. We need candidates that value education, no matter where you were born.”

Lawmakers have recently addressed the question of in-state tuition for non-residents. Earlier this year state senator Heather Carter sponsored Arizona Senate Bill 1217, which states that “a person who applies for admission to a university under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Regents after graduating from any of the public or private high school options in this state…is entitled to the Arizona high school graduate tuition rate in an amount prescribed by the Arizona Board of Regents.”

The bill appears to have died in the state house as of late May. Senator Carter’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the board’s new rule.

MORE: Illegal immigrants in Maine now entitled to in-state tuition

MORE: Wisconsin may allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition

IMAGE: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Coy Westbrook -- Texas A&M University