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Sen. Gray to MCC: Don’t reverse course on increased tuition for illegal immigrants

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A state senator is accusing the Maricopa Community Colleges board of planning to break the law by reconsidering its tuition rates, a move the legislator said would result in undocumented students paying in-state tuition rates.

If the district’s board pushes ahead at its meeting tomorrow, Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, said it would be risking the financial aid it gets from the state.

In a written statement, Gray said she has learned the board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday night “to consider backing out of a March tuition agreement that finally put the colleges in compliance with Proposition 300.”

Gray said the college district already dragged its feet in complying with Proposition 300, the 2006 ballot measure that bars tuition subsidies for illegal immigrants.

“Now, even before the tuition schedule goes into effect on July 1, the board is re-considering its action. That is unacceptable,” Gray said.

But a spokesperson for the district said the board is merely planning to decide when the increased tuition rates will take effect and ask the attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the elimination of a second, and lower, rate for out-of-state students who take six credits or fewer, is required by law.

“Those are the two items that are on this agenda – nothing more,” said Tom Gariepy, a spokesman for the college district.

Gariepy said the district adopted a two-tiered system for charging tuition years ago that was meant to, among other things, attract folks who come to Arizona during the winter.

Before the changes, the tuition for those who are taking six credits or fewer was $96 per credit. The new rate adopted for fiscal year 2011-2012 increases it to $317 per credit.

Gariepy said the idea then was not to charge full tuition for students who only take a few credits. At the time, illegal immigration didn’t have the same prominence as it does now, he said.

Gray told Arizona Capitol Times she got her information from one of the board members.

Gray explained that illegal immigrants were getting away with not paying out-of-state tuition by taking six or fewer credit hours.

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