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First steps in 2022 campaign for Dreamers’ tuition under way

By: - June 1, 2021 10:58 am

Arizona State University graduates in December 2010. Photo by Kevin Dooley | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The campaign to repeal a state law that forces Dreamers who graduated from Arizona high schools to pay out-of-state tuition at the state’s universities has begun, with the launch of a campaign committee that hopes to spend millions of dollars to support the measure on the 2022 ballot.

The Become Arizona PAC, a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, faith learners, business groups and education advocacy groups, aims to raise several million dollars, said its chairman, Tyler Montague. 

On May 10, the Arizona House of Representatives passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 with bipartisan support, despite the majority caucus’ reluctance to advance the measure. Some called the day historic

The measure will ask Arizona voters to allow all students who attend an Arizona high school for two years and who graduate to be eligible for in-state tuition. It will also exempt postsecondary education from the definition of a state or local public benefit, which those without lawful immigration status can’t currently access. 

That ban is due to voter-approved law from 2006, known as Proposition 300, that prohibits Arizona residents without a lawful immigration status from accessing child care assistance, family literacy programs, adult education classes, along with in-state tuition at public colleges and universities and financial aid. 

Every year, about 2,000 undocumented students graduate from Arizona high schools. They face tuition rates at community colleges and universities that are as much as three times higher than their classmates who are citizens will pay. 

The cost of tuition at Maricopa County Community Colleges is nearly 300 percent higher for non-residents than residents ($85 per credit hour versus $327). In 2019, the Arizona Board of Regents adopted a tuition rate for Arizona high school graduates who don’t qualify for in-state rates — like undocumented students — that is set at 150% of the resident cost. 

Become Arizona PAC will advocate for tuition equity by eliminating these financial barriers and in turn bring economic benefits to the state. 

“Dreamers want to become a part of society and part of the economy and become self-reliant and become what their potential is,” Montague said, explaining the name of the PAC. “That’s what this is all about: education.”

Statewide polling Become Arizona commissioned in February showed 1 in 3 Republicans support in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants who graduate an Arizona high school, according to an OH Predictive survey of 600 voters in Arizona. 

The survey found that 87% of Democrats support ignoring immigration status when determining who is eligible for the lower in-state tuition rates, as do 65% of voters who are not affiliated with a political party, known as independents.

The ballot measure is also seen as a reversal from a time that made Arizona the “hot bed of anti-immigrant sentiment,” Montague said.

“I like the deeper things that this symbolizes — we can still work together on smart, sensible things,” he said. “It symbolizes the pragmatic working together, something we’ve gotten away from in the toxic political environment. Here we have something that is not that and goes against the worst of partisanship, never working together on solutions to problems.”

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