The board that runs Arizona’s public universities voted down a proposal Thursday to create a new, cheaper tuition category for young people brought into the country illegally as children.

But efforts to give them a financial break aren’t over, the board’s leader says.

Arizona Board of Regents member Dennis DeConcini asked the board to endorse a 10 percent tuition surcharge on in-state tuition rates for such students, rather than the current practice of charging them out-of-state tuition, which is much higher.

Under his proposal, a young illegal immigrant who qualifies for deferred action — known as “Dreamers” — attending the University of Arizona, for example, would have paid about $11,000 this year instead of more than $26,000. Tuition for in-state students is about $10,000.

DeConcini said he was motivated by recent meetings with some illegal immigrant students.

“Their stories are literally enough to make you cry,” he said.

“To me these are innocent victims of their parents, who brought them here illegally. They had no intention to break the law.”

DeConcini’s motion was struck down when only one other board member — Regent LuAnn Leonard — voted for it.

Board Chairman Rick Myers said he and other regents didn’t support the proposal because they fear being sued by the state attorney general — a suit he said the regents would likely lose.

But Myers said regents will likely support a change if they can find a financial formula that could survive a court challenge, Myers said.

“If we’re going to do it, we want to know we can make it stick,” he said.

Attorney General Tom Horne already is suing Maricopa County’s community college system for its practice of offering in-state tuition rates to young illegal immigrants who are protected from deportation under a federal program.

Pima Community College offers the same deal to such students and recently has been questioned by the attorney general over its practice.

Reporter Carol Ann Alaimo can be reached at or at 573-4138.