/ Last Modified April 9, 2013

Regents to Take Up 'Deferred Action' Tuition

Undocumented students now pay out-of-state rate

The Arizona Board of Regents in June will consider tuition rates for students who are granted deferred deportation under President Barack Obama's executive order.

Undocumented students now pay out-of-state tuition rates at most higher education institutions, including Arizona's public universities, no matter how long they have lived in the state.

The question of whether tuition rates will change for students granted the two-year deferrals has been asked but not answered since federal policy changed last summer. That was when President Barack Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order for students who were brought illegally to the country as children.

At the University of Arizona, requirements for resident status are set by the Arizona Board of Regents. In a section of the policy that covers “aliens," the policy aligns itself with federal law, saying:

"No undocumented alien may receive in-state residency status for tuition purposes notwithstanding any language suggesting the contrary in either state statute or regent policy."

Pima Community College and Maricopa Community Colleges are granting in-state tuition for those who have work permits or deferred deportation status under Obama’s order.

The order gives temporary legal presence to undocumented people between the ages of 16 and 31 who were brought to the United States as children. They must meet a series of requirements, including enrollment in or completion of high school, enrollment in college or enlistment in the military.

“I would direct the staff to immediately begin to look at some of the options and provide back to the regents by the next meeting, under the state and federal law what our options are," regents chairman Rick Myers said at last week's board meeting.

At the June meeting, the board will discuss state and federal immigration laws and how they affect the students qualifying under Obama's order. That does not mean the board will take a vote or call to action on this issue, Myers said.

The UA Faculty Senate has supported giving in-state tuition to students who have the deferrals, said Andrew Silverman, immigration law professor at UA's James E. Rogers College of Law.

By receiving permission from the federal government to stay in the U.S. legally for two years, the students are no longer "undocumented," Silverman said.

“Even though the Board of Regents’ policy says that undocumented immigrants cannot get in-state tuition, they surely can distinguish between that policy and those who receive deferred action,” he said.

The board could change the policy, he said, or amend it to give the students a separate tuition rate that could be less expensive than out-of-state tuition.

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