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Tuition bill benefiting DACA recipients, other Arizona grads, revived

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PHOENIX — A bill that would create a new tuition rate for Arizona high school graduates has been revived in the state legislature.

The bill by Republican state Sen. Heather Carter would mandate the Arizona Board of Regents to come up with a tuition rate that would be lower than out-of-state but higher than in-state tuition.

The new rate would benefit all Arizona high school graduates, including those living in the country illegally.

“When our students do everything we ask them to do – attend school, do their work, work hard – and the next step is to go to college, we should be encouraging our students to continue their education,” Carter told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Carter revived the bill through a strike-everything amendment to HB 2186. This came after her original bill passed the state Senate but stalled in the House.

Opponents have argued the bill was designed to benefit students living in the country illegally, including those protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In January, state Sen. John Kavanagh told KTAR News he’s opposed to the idea of creating a reduced tuition rate that would benefit DACA recipients.

“Anything that encourages illegal immigration, especially at a time when our southern border is unsecure, is crazy,” Kavanagh said. “It just makes the situation worse.”

Other state lawmakers have also expressed concerns that Carter’s bill would violate Proposition 300, a ballot measure voters approved in 2006 barring students without a lawful immigration status from qualifying for in-state tuition.

Carter rejects that argument, saying her bill would create a new tuition classification.

She also argued her bill does not exclusively benefit DACA recipients and other students without legal status. She said the new tuition rate would also benefit Arizona high school graduates who left the state and want to come back.

“If somebody has moved out of state and decided they want to return to Arizona and pursue a degree at one of our community colleges or universities, they would not have to wait the time to be eligible for in-state tuition,” Carter explained. “They could utilize this third new path.”

“I think it’s critically important for the state that we do everything we can to remove roadblocks for people in our state to pursue their academic goals and dreams,” she added.

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