State resolution could give undocumented students in-state tuition

Currently, undocumented students who graduated from an Arizona high school pay 150% of in-state tuition

A Republican lawmaker has introduced a resolution which would allow Arizona voters to determine whether undocumented students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients may receive in-state tuition at community colleges and state universities.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 would grant in-state tuition to students who have lived in Arizona for at least two years and graduated from an Arizona high school or home school equivalent, regardless of their immigration status. 

If passed, SCR 1044 would repeal part of Proposition 300, a 2006 voter-approved measure denying people without legal immigration status benefits such as tuition wavers, grants, childcare and adult education subsidized by the state.

Arizona legislators have debated whether to allow students without U.S. citizenship to receive in-state tuition for years. Currently, DACA recipients who graduated from an Arizona high school pay 150% of in-state tuition.

It's a rate posing difficulties for many DACA recipients and undocumented students who aren't eligible for scholarships, grants or federal loans through universities.

Angel Palazuelos, a freshman studying biomedical engineering, said he had to find outside scholarships to fund his tuition due to his status as an undocumented immigrant.

College scholarships for DACA recipients and undocumented students are limited and highly competitive.

"In high school, I joined various clubs and joined sports. I took all the honors and AP classes my school offered," Palazuelos said.

Although he succeeded in receiving scholarships, Palazuelos felt the process was much more difficult for him than for documented students.

"There just came a point when I resented my mom for bringing me (to the U.S.) and I resented my status ... it felt like I was the only person going through this," he said.

When he wasn't granted a scholarship he was told he would receive, Palazuelos realized his financial standing would constantly be in flux due to his immigration status.

"My stay here at ASU is just a big puzzle," he said. "The puzzle is made out of many scholarships that range from $100 to $10,000 ... if one of those pieces were to go missing, there goes the whole puzzle."

Still, Palazuelos considers himself one of the lucky ones. Undocumented students who don't excel in academics and extracurriculars in high school may miss out on these opportunities.

"It's unfair because at the end of the day we all live under different circumstances," Palazuelos said. "I know some friends that take AP classes, take on two jobs ... and they’re still expected to be the best students."

Maria Garcia, a freshman studying aerospace engineering, said her parents, like her, are undocumented, and didn't know much about the college application process, having not gone to college themselves.

"They don't really understand scholarships or my major, but they support me in everything," Garcia said.

She said her high school failed to inform undocumented students like her they couldn't receive in-state tuition due to their immigration status.

"I wasn't the only one who didn't know, and I'm sure there's still students who don't know," Garcia said.

In response to SCR 1044's introduction, over 100 ASU students and organizations signed a joint statement in support of "in-state tuition and state-funded scholarship access for undocumented and DACA students."

However, Democrats who are wary of advancing the resolution argue that the legislation does not go far enough, and that Proposition 300 should be fully repealed instead. 

Reyna Montoya, an ASU alumna and founder and CEO of Aliento, a Phoenix-based organization dedicated to the well being of undocumented people, said lawmakers should act on this issue now instead of waiting for a broader piece of legislation.

"When we have a more educated society, we all do better," Montoya said. "This not only helps the students who are going to be able to obtain an education, but this helps families and communities."

While she supports the full repeal of Proposition 300, Montoya said she thinks passing SCR 1044 will "create momentum for the other parts that are not included in this."

The resolution passed through the Senate Committee of the Whole on Feb. 25 and awaits a third read. 

"Let's take the first step of actually undoing really harmful policies," Montoya said. "This would be transformational for students and families."


Reach the reporter at omccann1@asu.edu and follow @ocmccann on Twitter.

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