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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Young immigrants who are protected from deportation under a federal program say they deserve to pay in-state tuition rates at Arizona universities.
The Arizona Board of Regents will consider a proposal to reduce tuition to 150 percent of in-state tuition for people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA recipients and other immigrants who lack legal status pay out-of-state rates, which are nearly three times as much as the in-state cost.
Voters in 2006 approved Proposition 300, banning students who lack legal immigration status from paying in-state tuition and from receiving any state financial aid regardless of whether they attended an Arizona high school. In-state tuition and fees are more than $10,000 annually.
But students in Tucson and Phoenix say the 150 percent rate doesn't go far enough and many still wouldn't be able to afford the estimated $15,000 or more annually in tuition and fees. Regents plan to review the proposal at a meeting next week.
"One hundred and fifty percent is not attainable. Nobody has that kind of money. It'll open the doors for some people, but not for the majority," Dario Andrade Mendoza said Wednesday at a rally in Tucson. A similar rally was held in Phoenix on Tuesday.
Andrade Mendoza, who studies part-time at Pima Community College, said he has top grades and wants to transfer to the University of Arizona to get his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. The 20-year-old already has an associate degree from the college, but the current price to attend the university — about $30,000 a year — is impossible, he says.
Andrade Mendoza moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old, and he has attended Arizona schools since then. Along with being protected from deportation, Andrade Mendoza and the approximately 700,000 immigrants enrolled in DACA receive Social Security numbers and a work permit.
"We've been residents of this state for a long time," he said.
Regents have addressed in-state tuition for DACA recipients by saying their eligibility for it is in litigation, and although they have a lawful presence in the U.S., the state maintains they do not have a lawful immigration status as required by Arizona law.
"While I am sympathetic and while I would like to see them get in-state, that can't be done until the federal government, through Congress, passes a law legalizing them, or until the Arizona voters reverse Prop. 300," said state Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.
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