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DACA students to get special tuition rate under proposed Republican law

In this photo taken outside the Arizona State Supreme Court in Phoenix, Monday, April 2, 2018, immigrant students with deferred deportation status hold a banner in support asking the Supreme Court to rule in favor of continuing their access to in-state tuition costs. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)

In this photo taken outside the Arizona State Supreme Court in Phoenix, Monday, April 2, 2018, immigrant students with deferred deportation status hold a banner in support asking the Supreme Court to rule in favor of continuing their access to in-state tuition costs. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)

Barred from receiving in-state tuition at Arizona community colleges and universities, DACA recipients could still get a break on the cost of tuition under a Republican-backed bill.

Sen. Heather Carter’s SB1217 would direct the Arizona Board of Regents and community college governing boards to set a new tuition rate available to anyone who graduates from an Arizona high school.

The Cave Creek Republican envisions a rate higher than the cost of in-state tuition, but lower than tuition for out-of-state students.

That rate would affect not only immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but also undocumented students. Arizona residents who move out of state after graduating high school would also stand to benefit if they choose to return to Arizona to seek a higher degree.

“If a student has been educated in our Arizona K-12 system, it makes perfect sense for us to support and encourage them to continue their education,” Carter said. “…If you graduated from an Arizona high school, you are now eligible at this rate to continue your education in Arizona.”

As introduced, eligibility for the new tuition rate would expire after four years. But Carter told the Arizona Capitol Times she’ll offer an amendment to her bill that would eliminate the expiration date.

If approved, that would provide a discounted tuition rate to Arizona high school graduates who want to further their education in Arizona at any point in their lifetime.

Carter said the amendment aligns with Arizona State University President Michael Crow’s vision for “universal learning.”

“A lot of times we talk about it as being a lifelong learner. People will come in and out of an educational setting at different points in their life,” Carter said. “I think when we’re looking at your pursuit of your academic goals over your lifetime, it is perfectly appropriate to say, yes, 10 years, 15 years after graduation, I want to go back to where I graduated high school and go pursue a higher education goal.”

Carter’s bill aligns with an effort by some in the business community to find an affordable path to higher education for DACA recipients. Jaime Molera, a board member with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has also been in touch with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and said the organizations are in support of Carter’s effort.

DACA students “are going to remain in Arizona,” he said, “with zero opportunity to get some kind of higher certificate or degree that would allow them to be more productive.”

The trick is to find a path that doesn’t violate Proposition 300, the voter-approved law that bars anyone “without lawful immigration status” from being classified as an in-state student, Molera said. Carter’s legislation skirts the issue by creating a new tuition rate separate from the rate for those who qualify as in-state residents.

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