Arizona Native American students to pay in-state tuition with revised residency policy

(Courtney Pedroza/DD)
White Mountain Apache Tribe member RayAnn Chee had to pay out-of-state tuition to attend ASU. Arizona Native American students can pay in-state tuition for the first time this semester. (Courtney Pedroza/DD)

Students who are members of Arizona Native American tribes will receive in-state tuition for the first time this semester at ASU, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved a revision to its residency policy for enrolled members of Arizona Native American tribes on Nov. 21.

Regent LuAnn Leonard, executive director of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, was one of the key supporters who worked to pass the revision. She said the assimilation relocation programs of the 1950s were a key reason for the migration of many Arizona Native Americans all over the United States.

“This policy will help the children and grandchildren of those who are in those areas now to return home to Arizona in hopes that they attend an in-state university and then work to serve their tribe,” Leonard said.

She and her colleagues took the opportunity to propose changes to the residency specifications as the Board of Regents sifted through a number of policies.

Fewer than ten students per university are anticipated to experience changes in their tuition plans this semester. Though the effects of this policy revision may not drastically alter the lives of current Native American students, Leonard said she believes it is a worthwhile change.

“We won’t see the impact really soon, but it’s going to be for the next generation … it’s a win-win for all of us,” Leonard said.

She said Arizona is home to 22 tribes that make up 28 percent of Arizona’s land. ASU has the largest Native population of the three universities with 2,218 students enrolled for the Fall 2013 semester.

Infographic by Jayson Chesler

Vice Provost and Professor Eduardo Pagan, who is a member of the administrative staff at the ASU Office of Academic Excellence and Inclusion, also spoke about the historical patterns that caused Native Americans to migrate out of state.

“It is my hope and expectation that (this revision) will open doors for students who might not be able to otherwise afford coming to in-state universities,” Pagan said.

He said students of tribes such as the Zuni face discrepancies between state borders and tribal affiliations when seeking financial aid for college. With the revision, students only need to provide proof of membership with a federally recognized Arizona tribe and proof of U.S. citizenship.

“This is really a matter of fairness,” Pagan said.

Prior to this revision, Native American students faced larger financial burdens as they worked to alleviate the cost of attending out-of-state universities.

Criminal justice freshman RayAnn Chee, a member of the White Mountain Apache tribe, a Gates-Millennium Scholar and an Obama Scholar, said she made her way to college through self-reliance and dedication in funding her education.

“It just depends on who really wants higher education … parents can only help so much,” Chee said.

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