DREAMers Hope a Maricopa Judge's In-State Tuition Ruling Rubs Off On the Arizona Board of Regents

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Alejandra Salazar was surprised to hear a Maricopa County Superior Court judge had ruled DREAMers are entitled to in-state tuition.

The decision Tuesday settled a two-year lawsuit former attorney general Tom Horne filed against the Maricopa County Community College District for granting students under Obama's 2012 DACA program in-state rates. 

Horne's suit argued the district violated Prop 300, a referendum approved by voters in 2006 that says non U.S. citizens and legal residents don't get in-state tuition or financial aid funded by the state. 

From an article on The Arizona Republic:
Judge Arthur Anderson ruled the Arizona law doesn't bar benefits to immigrants lawfully in the country, and that under federal law, the DACA students are lawfully present.

"Federal law, not state law, determines who is lawfully present in the U.S. ... The circumstance under which a person enters the U.S. does not determine that person's lawful presence here," the ruling says.

Maricopa County's 10 community colleges charge $84 per credit for in-state tuition, compared with $325 per credit for out-of-state tuition.

In years past, undocumented students had been able to attend community-college classes for $91 per credit as long as they took six or fewer credits per semester under a program originally intended for snowbirds. In 2012, the district's governing board ended that program and began charging the full out-of-state tuition rate.
"This has to do a lot with the work we have been doing," says Salazar, who is graduating from Pima Community College on May 21 with an associate's degree in business. (PCC gives DREAMers in-state tuition since fall 2013.)

She's right. DREAMers have been making a lot of noise for the past three years. And, especially now, as they anticipate the Arizona Board of Regents to vote on lower tuition for DACA recipients at the three state universities.

ABOR has chosen to follow the Prop 300 guidelines thus far, so DREAMers who want to attend the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University pay out-of-state rates, which at the UA totals more than $30,000 a year. 

In their June meeting, ABOR is scheduled to vote on a new proposal that would OK DREAMers to pay 150 percent of what undergraduate, in-state tuition is. But DREAMers demand for tuition equity.

"I think this is really going to influence the desision (ABOR) makes, because of the way the judge worded it, 'DACA recipients are lawfully in the country so they should be able to get in-state tuition.' It is the fair thing to do," she says. Salazar was 12 years old when her family moved to Tucson from Guaymas, Sonora. She has a younger brother who also attends Pima—they are fighting this side-by-side.

From the Republic:
Regents President Eileen Klein said Tuesday she expects to schedule a regents meeting soon to discuss the ruling. The regents are not a party in the lawsuit.

"We respect the court's decision around Maricopa Community College students, and we want to now read that court decision and figure out what it means for Arizona universities. ... We are going to move very quickly," Klein said.

She added that the regents will comply with state and federal law.
"From a financial point of view, we are going to be giving back to our state, getting higher paying jobs, we are going to be paying more taxes...it makes sense to make education accessible," she says. 

If that happens, Salazar hopes to transfer to the UA's Eller College of Management. Still, she's been maintaining good grades to apply for scholarships.

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