Here's what's next for 'dreamers' at Arizona colleges and universities

Here’s what’s next for ‘dreamers’ at Arizona colleges and universities


Originally published by AZ Central

The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that young immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program cannot pay in-state tuition rates at Arizona colleges and universities.

That means the tens of thousands of Arizona DACA recipients, commonly referred to as dreamers, may have to pay three times as much tuition for higher education here.

Here are answers to some questions about what could happen next for dreamers and tuition.

Will current DACA students pay more immediately?

Current DACA students at Arizona colleges and universities won't get a bill asking for more money for the current semester.

The Spring 2018 rates were set well before the Arizona Supreme Court's ruling. Most, if not all, students have already paid for the semester's tuition and fees.

The ruling makes no indication it applies retroactively.

Rates for the 2018-19 school year were set already for Arizona community colleges and universities.

What are the changes at state universities?

The Arizona Board of Regents announced it would end its in-state tuition rates for DACA recipients "effective immediately."

For students starting in the summer or fall, tuition rates will be higher. But, how much higher could depend on the student.

Some DACA recipients may qualify for a tuition rate set up in 2015 by the regents to allow students who went to Arizona high schools for three years and have legal immigration status to pay 150 percent of in-state rates.

Here's how the tuition breaks down at Arizona State University: In-state students will pay $9,834 in base tuition this fall, while out-of-state students will pay $27,618. The 150 percent rate comes out to $14,751.

What are the changes at community colleges?

The bulk of Arizona's DACA students who are pursuing higher education attend community colleges. More than 2,100 DACA students were enrolled at Maricopa Community Colleges as of the end of the Fall 2017 semester.

In-state students currently pay $86 per credit hour this school year at the Maricopa Community Colleges. Non-resident students pay $241 per credit hour.

It's not yet known how quickly the ruling will apply to tuition.

The community colleges began enrollment for this summer and fall in early March.

At the community colleges, there are already nearly 350 DACA recipients signed up for classes this summer. The ruling doesn't make clear how their tuition will be affected since they were already signed up for classes before it was issued.

Will the ruling be appealed?

The court didn't release a full ruling explaining its reasoning, but it is expected to do so by mid-May.

If the court's ruling relied on federal law, the ruling could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But if the ruling is based on state law, there's no further opportunity for appeal.

It's unclear if the Maricopa County Community College District will appeal the ruling, both because it's not known how the court interpreted laws and because an appeal would require a board vote.

The Maricopa County Community College District board voted 4-3 last year to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

How will dreamers afford the increase?

Dreamers can't access federal or state public financial aid, so the increased tuition will be difficult to cover. They can use private loans or scholarships.

Karina Ruiz, the president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, said her group will immediately begin a fundraising push to provide emergency funding for DACA recipients who already are in school.

Raising money for scholarships was also one of five promises ASU president Michael Crow made to DACA recipients last year.

What about the ballot box?

Belen Sisa, a DACA recipient and the advocacy director of Undocumented Students for Education Equity, said there's a possibility dreamers could take their fight for in-state tuition to Arizona voters.

In 2006, Arizona voters approved Proposition 300, which prohibited people without legal immigration documents from accessing public benefits. The ballot measure specifically said in-state tuition was one of these public benefits.

Sisa said the measure has continued to hinder dreamers in various ways, and it may be necessary to ask voters to overturn it in 2020.

What's happening at the federal level?

DACA, in general, is still up in the air in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump said the program would end in March without Congressional action to make it permanent, but Congress has failed to act so far.

Trump tweeted last week that DACA was "dead," but Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said there is still a bipartisan group of lawmakers willing to work on the issue.

The universities and the regents all called on Congress to act to provide certainty for DACA recipients in statements they released after the ruling.

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