- By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX — “Dreamers” at the state’s three universities will continue to pay the same tuition as other Arizona residents, at least for now, despite a court ruling.
The Arizona Board of Regents voted Thursday to continue its policy of interpreting Arizona law to say that those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are entitled to the same legal — and financial — considerations as anyone else who meets state residency requirements.
DACA, created in 2012 by the Obama administration, allows people who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain if they meet certain other conditions. Students enrolled in DACA are known as “dreamers”; there are less than 300 in Arizona’s state university system.
Thursday’s vote comes a week after the Arizona Court of Appeals concluded a similar tuition policy at Maricopa community colleges violates Proposition 300. That 2006 voter-approved law says those in the country illegally are not entitled to in-state tuition. The same law prohibits tuition waivers, scholarships or any other aid funded with public dollars.
But regents Chairman Bill Ridenour noted that the Maricopa board voted Tuesday to appeal that ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court. Ridenour said he wants to wait to see what the state’s high court decides before making any policy changes.
He also noted that students begin returning to campuses for the fall semester in August.
“We are very appreciative of the need for some kind of certainty for those students with our universities,” Ridenour said. He said there is no reason the current tuition policy, adopted two years ago, should be scrapped unless and until there’s a final Supreme Court ruling.
Only Regent Jay Heiler voted against keeping tuition for “dreamers” at the in-state rate.
“We have a Court of Appeals decision founded largely in state law as enacted by the voters,” Heiler said. “I feel this board needs to honor that.”
But Heiler said he would not require DACA recipients to pay the full out-of-state rate.
He pointed out that the board already has a policy allowing students who graduate from Arizona high schools, but do not meet other residency requirements, to pay a “differentiated rate.”
In essence, this is designed to cover the actual costs of educating students, which would avoid the prohibition against subsidized tuition in Proposition 300. The regents have set that rate at 150 percent of in-state tuition.
Other regents said they were content to leave the tuition for “dreamers” where it is right now.