Arizona ‘Dreamers’ can no longer receive in-state tuition

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Young immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who are attending or wish to attend a college and/or a university in their home state of Arizona now have to pay out-of-state tuition.

On Monday,  the Arizona Supreme Court sided with Arizona Court of Appeals on denying in-state tuition for DACA recipients. The ruling means that the tuition for DACA recipients who are studying in Arizona public colleges could double and even triple for more than 2,000 DACA students according to AZ Central.  

DACA allows some individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation and become eligible for a driver’s license and work permit in the U.S.

“It’s scary, I planned out my next four years at ASU already, I’m supposed to have all of my tuition covered for four years and now I don’t even know if I’ll be attending next semester,”  Denis Alvarez, a DACA recipient, said.

Alvarez, 19, is wrapping up her freshman year at Arizona State University and now worries about her future in education. Alvarez is one of tens of thousands of Arizona DACA recipients, who suddenly have to figure out the next steps to be able to receive and afford their education. 

“With the rise of tuition we don’t know what our next steps are,” Alvarez said. 

According to Alvarez, she was not expecting the ruling to happen, because in 2015 Maricopa County Superior Court decided that DACA recipients would be charged in-state tuition because they had legal immigration status in the U.S. 

Six states including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and South Carolina bar unauthorized immigrant students from in-state tuition benefits, according to National Conference of State legislatures. 

The ruling also applies to the state’s three public universities, Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

In Arizona alone there are nearly 26,000 DACA recipients and approximately 240 DACA students are attending the state’s public universities and more than 2,000 DACA students are in Maricopa Community Colleges, according to data from Migration Policy Institute.

Oscar Hernandez is a DACA recipient and ASU student that is going to be graduating this May with a degree in public policy. Even though Hernandez is excited about graduating, just like Alvarez he worries that the increase in tuition will affect his long-term goal of furthering his education.

“It still might directly impact me, I am graduating which I’m very grateful about, however, I am trying to pursue my master’s degree,” Hernandez said. 

Undergraduate 2017-2018 Arizona Universities tuition data shows that ASU residents paid a total of $10,640, while non-residents paid a total of $26,470. Maricopa Community colleges numbers show that non-residents pay $327 per credit hour and residents pay $86 per credit hour, according to Migration Policy Institute. 

According to Hernandez, he fears that because there are so many people attacking DACA recipients and immigrants as a whole that it keeps dreamers from achieving their goals and it holds them back from attending college.

“There are policies here in the state that see dreamers like myself and thousands of us, who see us first as illegal and a student second,” Hernandez said, “that’s a big message to people especially high schoolers and middle schoolers who want to achieve things as simple as going to college.” 

Hernandez is referring to the estimated number of 4,900 DACA students who are attending high school in Arizona, according to MPI.

Karina Ruiz is a DACA recipient and the president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, which is an immigration organization that focuses on the rights for higher education and immigrant rights. It took Ruiz 12 years to obtain a B.S. Biochemistry from ASU due to anti-immigrant Prop 300.

Much like Hernandez, Ruiz also said she has been advising students affected by the recent ruling of in-state tuition to not lose hope and to finish the semester strong.  

“We want every young immigrant to have the chance to attain a higher education,” Ruiz said.

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