Arizona 'Dreamers' win lower in-state tuition rates at public universities

University regents grant Arizona resident rates to immigrants covered by DACA, in response to judge's ruling

The Arizona Board of Regents will grant in-state tuition rates to young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children and now seek to attend public universities as Arizona residents.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson ruled earlier in the week that community college students who have work visas under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are eligible for in-state tuition at community colleges.

In response to that ruling, the regents said such benefits would be extended to DACA students accepted into the state's three public universities: Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.

The in-state tuition at Arizona State University is about $10,000 this year. For out-of-state students, it's $24,500.

“Students were getting priced out of an education,” said state Sen. Martin Quezada, a Phoenix Democrat.

For years, immigrant students living in Arizona without authorization have paid in-state tuition within the Maricopa County Community College District as long they took six or fewer credits. The program was originally intended for children traveling with a snowbird parent.

But in 2006, Arizona passed a law that prohibited giving public benefits to people living in the country illegally.

In 2013, Arizona's then-Atty. Gen. Tom Horne — who contended that the tuition was a public benefit to such immigrants — challenged the community college policy in court.

Anderson's ruling this week says students who qualify for DACA are living in the country legally, so the community college district is authorized and obliged to let them pay in-state tuition.

To qualify for DACA, previously unauthorized immigrants must have been younger than 16 when they came to the country and must be younger than 30 when they apply. So-called Dreamers cannot have felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, and they must have five consecutive years of residency in the U.S. In addition, they must either be in school or have earned a high school or general equivalency diploma.

After Anderson's ruling, Arizona regents officially extended in-state tuition to DACA students.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times