PHOENIX — The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously voted to expand access to a tuition rate paid by immigrants who are living in the country illegally but graduated from Arizona high schools. The change will save eligible students thousands of dollars in tuition starting this school year.
The regents eliminated the requirement that a student be "lawfully present" in Arizona to be eligible for a discounted rate, extending that rate to all undocumented students, even those who are not DACA recipients. It is effective immediately and students who have already paid the higher rate can check with their school's bursar's office about the new tuition rates.
“We want to make clear that all students who graduate from an Arizona high school, within the parameters of this policy, are eligible for this non-subsidized rate,” ABOR Executive Director John Arnold said during the meeting at the Fulton Center on Arizona State University’s campus.
The three public universities have allowed students from Arizona in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to pay tuition that’s 50% higher than in-state students but lower than out-of-state and international students. DACA recipients are those immigrants brought to the United States as children who were granted exemptions from deportation under the Obama administration. President Trump has stopped new enrollments in the program.
“This is a permanent change,” Arnold said. “Of course, as federal law changes we may have to adjust the policy according to changes in state or federal law. But the way it’s structured now will carry us through until there is outside action.”
The ABOR policy to offer undocumented students a 150% tuition rate over in-state costs took effect during the fall 2015 semester. DACA students from Arizona had for a while been eligible for in-state tuition but an Arizona Supreme Court ruling last year said it was illegal to allow those in the DACA program to pay the same tuition as other state residents.
The lower tuition rates also apply to legal U.S. residents who graduated from Arizona high schools but moved away, losing their status as Arizona residents before returning to college.
At the University of Arizona, 60 students are paying the discounted tuition rates afforded to DACA recipients for this upcoming semester, which starts Monday. Officials said a full-time student at that rate would pay nearly $18,000 for the year. Out-of-state undergraduate tuition runs around $36,000 at the UA.
The number of students utilizing the rate during the spring 2019 semester was 329 at Arizona State University and six at Northern Arizona University.
Officials do not have an estimate of how many students they expect to receive the discounted rate in the future as a result of Thursday’s change.
ABOR chairman Larry Penley said the change is “all about the future of Arizona.” He likened it to the state’s goal of reaching a 60% post-secondary education rate for Arizona adults by 2030.
“We have a responsibility in this state to educate as many people as we can,” Penley said. “It is essential that we increase the number of people who complete our high schools, go on to some sort of postsecondary education and are successful in doing so.”
Thursday’s change does not affect the community college level, where colleges are not allowed to offer in-state tuition thanks to the Arizona Supreme Court ruling last year.
At Pima Community College, those students are charged a non-resident, out-of-state rate, which typically costs $306 per in-classroom credit hour, or $216 per online credit hour, officials said. The number of DACA students has dropped from 171 in the fall 2017 to 64 students in the spring 2019, officials said.
Several other UA-related items were also approved unanimously by the board on Thursday, including:
- The approvals of Lisa Rulney as the school’s CFO and senior vice president of business affairs, and Liesl Folks as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. Both began their roles in July. Their additions were announced in May. Rulney's salary is $450,000 a year; Folks' salary is $460,000 a year.
- An amended lease to cover a $3.3 million increase in construction, design and scope costs for the creation of the UA’s Mineral Museum at the Old Pima County Courthouse. The museum has committed to funding the increase with $3.3 million in gifts. Should the costs increase, the museum said it would fund the project with additional gifts or by selling “redundant mineral specimens.”