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Arizona Appeals Court Overturns In-State Tuition for DACA Students

Arizona Appeals Court Overturns In-State Tuition for DACA Students
Susan Dutca-Lovell

The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned a 2015 ruling that allowed undocumented students who were granted deferred deportation to pay lower in-state college tuition. The 2015 lower court ruling maintained that, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, students who came to the U.S. illegally as children were considered lawfully present and therefore eligible for state benefits.

In 2015, DACA recipients were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a ruling by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge. A three-judge panel recently overturned that decision based on "Arizona's statutory provisions regarding alien eligibility for in-state tuition benefits." Appeals Court Judge Kenton noted that, according to federal immigration law, certain groups such as legal permanent residents, refugees or people with "special status" are considered "lawfully present" and eligible for those benefits, but DACA students aren't included in those groups.

Roughly 250 DACA students are currently enrolled in public universities at Arizona and 2,056 students attend Maricopa Community Colleges. The current in-state tuition per year at Arizona community colleges is $2,580 versus the out-of-state tuition of $8,900. In-state tuition at a state university is $12,000 a year compared to $34,000 for out-of-state tuition. Arizona Board of Regents Eileen Klein stated that "it [the] decision stands, DACA students will no longer qualify for in-state tuition at Arizona's public universities" but "they may be eligible for a special nonresident tuition rate for Arizona high school graduates, set at 150 percent of undergraduate resident tuition."

Financial aid in the form of scholarships does exist for undocumented students, including scholarships for DACA students. When applying for scholarships and financial aid based on citizenship, be sure to research your state's immigration policies and eligibility requirements prior to applying for a scholarship.

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