Arizona voters to decide on in-state tuition for undocumented students

Feb 11, 2022, 4:45 AM

(Pexels Photo)...

(Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona voters will get to decide in November if undocumented students can once again pay in-state tuition and qualify for state financial aid.

A measure that will appear on the ballot seeks to let undocumented students attend college on the same tuition basis as their peers. To qualify for in-state tuition and state financial aid, they must attend an Arizona high school for at least two years and graduate.

Melina Morales, 17, of Phoenix, hopes voters will support it. She was 9 years old when she and her family came to the United States from Mexico.

“My hope is that Arizona voters will give me an opportunity to go to higher education,” Morales said. “It would really make my dream come true of going to college.”

Morales is about to graduate from Bioscience High School and wants to attend Arizona State University to study mechanical engineering.

She’ll have to pay nearly three times more than her peers because she’s undocumented, which Morales said her parents can’t afford. Morales has been applying for scholarships but she only qualifies for private ones.

That all could change if voters approve the ballot measure.

“If Arizona voters give us an opportunity to continue with our education, it would mean a lot to me and to many of us,” she said. “We’re not asking for a free pass. We’re just asking for an opportunity.”

The measure will appear on the November ballot after state lawmakers last legislative session agreed to let voters decide if they want to overturn parts of Proposition 300, which voters approved in 2006.

It banned Arizona high school graduates without a legal status from paying in-state tuition and getting state-subsidized financial assistance.

State Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, and Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 last year to let voters decide if they want to overturn that ban.

The bill passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and several Republicans, sending the measure to the November ballot.

While debating SCR 1044 on the House floor last year, Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, said he feared this would encourage more illegal immigration and make the border crisis worse. He ultimately voted no.

“Children that are brought across the border are not responsible for the actions of those who brought them,” Toma said. “Having said that, it’s impossible to ignore the current situation at the border.”

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, also voted against it. He argued in-state tuition and state financial aid should only be made available to students with a legal status.

“Americans should not have to pay for non-American citizens, illegals, giving them favored status for their trespass and invasion into America,” Fillmore said.

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Arizona voters to decide on in-state tuition for undocumented students