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Bill would let undocumented students pay in-state tuition in Arizona

(Wikimedia Commons Photo/Adavyd)

PHOENIX — Arizona voters may soon get to decide whether to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and qualify for state financial aid.

That’s currently prohibited under Proposition 300, which voters approved in 2006. A bill in the state legislature would overturn that part of the voter-approved measure.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 would let students without a legal status pay in-state tuition at the state’s public universities and community colleges, as well as receive state-subsidized financial aid.

To qualify, they must attend high school or be homeschooled in Arizona for at least two years and graduate.

Supporters of the resolution believe it’s good for Arizona’s economy to have more people access higher education. Opponents argue only those with legal status should have access to in-state tuition and state financial aid.

Maria Dominguez, a sophomore at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, would benefit from SCR 1044. She was born in Mexico and came to live in Arizona with her parents when she was 9 months old.

“This bill motivates me to further my education and become the first one in my family to attend college,” she told the Senate Education Committee last week.

She wants to attend the University of Arizona and become a neurologist.

“I know that I’m not the only student who’s asking for an opportunity to give back through education,” she said. “In high school, I’ve met many of my peers who want to go to college but currently don’t have access to in-state tuition or financial aid.”

About 2,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in Arizona every year, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Democrats have expressed support for SCR 1044, but some worry it doesn’t go far enough. They’d like to see a full repeal of Proposition 300, which also prohibits anyone without legal status from getting childcare assistance and adult education classes.

Republican State Sen. Paul Boyer, who introduced the bill, addressed those concerns at a Senate Education Committee hearing last week.

“I know for some of you, this bill doesn’t go far enough,” he said. “What I would say to you is, ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the great.’ And this is a great bill.”

With a 6-2 vote, SCR 1044 got a do-pass recommendation from the Senate Education Committee.

It is scheduled to go before the Senate Rules Committee Monday morning. If approved, it will go to the Senate floor for a vote.

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