No In-State Tuition for Arizona Dreamers

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 10, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a short 'Decision Order' issued by the Arizona Supreme Court on Monday, DACA program participants that are state residents are not eligible for in-state college tuition at Arizona's public universities. The decision will likely mean that many of the 2,000 Dreamers currently enrolled in Arizona's public universities will be unable to afford tuition.

Unfortunately for these students, federal and state financial aid is not available. A full opinion explaining the rationale behind the order is expected next month. The state's high court found it prudent to notify the public of the decision as soon as possible so that affected individuals have as much time as possible to make arrangements as necessary.

It Didn't Have to Be This Way

In 2015, a Maricopa County court ruled that DACA recipients could be charged in state tuition since DACA gave them legal status. After the order, and until this ruling, the state's public universities were charging in state tuition.

As the order explains, under current state and federal law, students protected by DACA are not eligible for in state tuition. However, in other states, including New Mexico, California and Colorado, if a protected student graduated from a high school within the state, they can receive in state tuition. As the court noted, Arizona does not have such a law, and might have a more difficult time than other states even passing such a law.

Interestingly though, the Arizona Board of Regents has already adopted a policy to allow Dreamers to pay 150% of the cost rather than the full out-of-state tuition which is nearly triple the cost of in-state tuition (i.e. at ASU: $26,470 compared to $10,640; at Maricopa's community college, the cost is $241 per credit compared to $86). A board member explained that the 150% figure would mean that the state is not subsidizing the education, as it does when a student pays in-state tuition, and thus not conferring a public benefit (because state law prohibits public benefits from being given to an individual without a lawful immigration status).

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