YUMA, AZ – The fate of many Yuma college students may rely on a decision made elsewhere in the state. Illegal immigrants who get work permits through the president's deferred action program are eligible for in-state tuition at Maricopa Community Colleges.
College officials say the federally issued permits are on the list of approved documents for residency, so the holders are eligible for in-state tuition. In Yuma, the matter remains undecided.
KSWT asked a few students at Arizona Western College what they thought. Aadalberto Beltran is studying to be a dental hygienist.
"I think it's a good idea to grant them state tuition. I myself used to be an illegal student until I recently obtained my residency in Arizona," said Beltran.
Imari Lyons is a psychology student at AWC.
"If you're out of state, you pay out of state tuition, if you're in state you get the privilege to pay in-state tuition."
A black and white answer. Next Imari was asked if an out-of-state student wanting to work and go to school in Arizona should pay more than an illegal immigrant with legal working papers. It's the same question, phrased differently. Suddenly, there were infinite shades of grey.
"I don't know. Probably. Somewhere in between, or maybe out-of-state tuition because they're immigrants, whatever, but yeah, probably out of state tuition," replied Lyons.
Imagine what policy makers are dealing with. While the federal government has dictated black-and-white rules to state universities via President Obama's deferred action policy … permit-bearing immigrant workers will indeed be given in-state tuition rates ... community colleges still must sort through the shades of gray. So who's responsible for making that decision?
"That would have to come from our executive administration, the president and his cabinet and I think that would have to meet the board's approval to change that kind of policy," explains AWC's Dean of Enrollment Services, Llewellyn Young, Jr.
At AWC, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is just 10 dollars per credit-hour: seventy-two dollars per credit-hour for in-state; eighty-two dollars per credit-hour for out-of-state.
The decision at Maricopa Community Colleges comes after a legal review. Governor Jan Brewer has said those with deferred action privileges will not be eligible for any state benefits. The Arizona Board of Regents is also in the process of reviewing state law to see if it will grant in-state tuition.
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