Arizona AG sues Board of Regents over ‘unconstitutional’ in-state tuition hike

Sep 8, 2017, 2:20 PM | Updated: 4:54 pm
Follow @KTAR923...

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents over the group’s decision to increase in-state tuition at the state’s three public universities by as much as 370 percent.

Brnovich filed the lawsuit on Friday, which alleged that the board “dramatically and unconstitutionally” increased the price of in-state tuition and mandatory fees by “315 to 370 percent” in the last 15 years. Sarah Harper, a spokeswoman for the board, said it has not been served with the complaint as of Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit claimed that the board “shirked its constitutional [duties]” because its tuition-setting policy does not “comply with the constitutional mandate,” “unlawfully charges students…significantly more than the actual cost” and causes the “illegal expenditure of public monies.”

It also claimed that the board’s decision to grant in-state tuition to students under what was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program that granted temporary protection from deportation and a temporary work permit to children who came to the U.S. as a child, “[risked] triggering a federal requirement that in-state tuition benefits must be extended to all U.S. citizens.”

President Donald Trump ended the program last week, but nearly 50 superintendents from Arizona signed a letter in support of DACA.

In a press conference, Brnovich said the board was not complying with Arizona’s state constitution, which requires state universities to be “as nearly free as possible.”

The state wants the board to “abide by that principle,” Brnovich said, adding that regents looks at other state universities to determine the tuition increases.

“We think that’s the wrong focus. What they should be focusing on is how do we make this as free as possible,” he said.

Regents approved the most recent tuition increases at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona in April. Tuition and fees increased by 1.4 percent at ASU, 3.9 percent at the UA and 2.7 percent at NAU.

There was no increase in base tuition for most continuing NAU undergraduates under the university’s tuition guarantee program or for most continuing undergraduate students enrolled in the UA’s guaranteed tuition program.

Funding cuts factor in tuition hikes

Brnovich may be right that tuition has soared in the state well beyond inflation. But state funding cuts have been a major factor.

A report by the Legislature’s budget analysts shows that inflation-adjusted state funding has gone from about $9,600 per student in the 2008 budget year to $3,500 in the 2017 year. Universities have raised tuition to make up the difference.

The lawsuit against in-state tuition for immigrant students was expected after former GOP legislator Russell Pearce sent a letter giving Brnovich 60 days to sue before taking legal action himself. Pearce’s threat came after a court ruled that students in the DACA program must pay higher-cost out-of-state tuition.

Pearce is a former state senator best known as the author of Arizona’s landmark immigration bill, SB1070. He argued that a 2006 voter-enacted law prohibits public benefits for anyone living in Arizona without legal immigration status.

There are nearly 28,000 DACA recipients in Arizona, and the lawsuit and ruling would affect at least several hundred state university students and an unknown number attending community colleges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/City Government of Chandler, Arizona)...

Chandler City Council approves policy to prohibit acts of discrimination

The Chandler City Council voted 6-1 to adopt an ordinance that prohibits discrimination during Monday’s meeting.
1 day ago
(Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Execution warrant requested for Arizona death row inmate

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has requested the state Supreme Court issue a warrant of execution for death row inmate Aaron Gunches.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Angel Zamora)...

2 Phoenix police officers charged with assault in October incident with shooting suspect

Charges against two Phoenix police officers accused of assaulting a shooting suspect during an October arrest have been submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
1 day ago
(Screenshot via Glendale Police Department)...

Glendale police said officer who activated Taser on shoplifting suspect 14 times followed policy

Glendale police said an officer who activated a Taser 14 times on a shoplifting suspect Tuesday acted within department policy.
1 day ago
(Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Photo/Andrew Pielage)...

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Scottsdale to host 1st holiday experience

The Scottsdale winter home and studio of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright will host two weekends of holiday-themed activities open to the public for the first time.
1 day ago
Teofilo Acuna Gutierrez (Photo courtesy of DPS)...

Silver Alert canceled for 78-year-old man last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was canceled Wednesday evening in Phoenix for a 78-year-old man who hasn't been spotted since Friday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Arizona AG sues Board of Regents over ‘unconstitutional’ in-state tuition hike