Undocumented HS Graduates in Arizona Receive Tuition Reduction at State Universities

High school students in Arizona who are undocumented are now eligible for reduced tuition rates at state universities.

The decision was made in a unanimous vote approved by the Arizona Board of Regents on August 23, the Arizona Republic reported. Before the new rule change, undocumented students living in the state had to pay out-of-state tuition, which can cost up to $30,000 at the three state universities. The cost has now been reduced to $16,000, which is still higher than the $11,000 rate for students who live in-state.

The new cost is identified as a “non-resident tuition rate,” and applies to students who graduated from Arizona high schools but are not eligible for resident tuition. The newspaper reported Arizona State University’s report that there were 329 students who paid the non-resident tuition rate last summer, which is set at 150 percent of what residents pay for in-state tuition.

The new rule comes a few months after Arizona lawmakers failed to pass Senate Bill 1217, which would have created a new tuition rate for Arizona’s public universities and community colleges for all students who graduate from Arizona high schools, the Arizona Republic previously reported. The bill, which was sponsored by Republican state Senator Heather Carter, would cover undocumented students and students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing them to pay a lower price than the out-of-state tuition cost.

The proposed bill stated that anyone who applies to an Arizona state university and, at the time of application, graduated from an Arizona high school less than twelve years prior is eligible to receive the Arizona high school graduation tuition rate, The State Press previously reported.

“If for whatever reason you’re not eligible for in-state tuition, this would give you a path,” Carter previously told the Arizona Republic. “If (students) have an interest or a passion or a desire to continue their education, that’s fantastic, we should try to support that,” she continued.

There are 18 states with provisions that allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Sixteen states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington — provide in-state tuition rates for undocumented students. Two other states, Oklahoma and Rhode Island, offer in-state tuition rates to students without legal status through the Board of Regents.

A report from the Migration Policy Institute released in April found that nearly 100,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools in the country each year. The report estimated that 98,000 undocumented students graduated from high school in the 2016-2017 school year, an increase from the previous estimate of 65,000 produced by the institute.

The report also found California graduated the highest number of undocumented students, with 27 percent of graduates having an unofficial immigration status. Despite the high graduation rates, the future for undocumented students still remains uncertain for those who are not protected by DACA. The institute’s report argued undocumented high school graduates may have difficulty finding work or attending higher education institutions after graduation if the DACA program is terminated.

“While the legal battle over the existence and scope of the program continues, unauthorized immigrant youth (typically referred to as DREAMers) are graduating every year from high school without access to DACA protections, harming their work prospects and limiting their postsecondary education opportunities,” the fact sheet from the institute read.

“These legal developments beg the question how many of these youth, vulnerable to arrest and removal, graduate from high school annually to face these limited prospects.”

DACA grants permits and deportation relief to DREAMers brought to the US when they were children. In 2017, President Donald Trump attempted to end the program, but was stopped by a US Appeals Court in 2018, Reuters previously reported. While DACA recipients can renew their applications every two years, new applications for the program are no longer accepted.

“Having a work permit has allowed DACA recipients not only to work but also to accept better, higher-paying jobs — and in some states even apply for select occupational licenses — if the recipients have graduated from high school or earned higher levels of educational attainment,” the report stated.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.