DACA students no longer eligible for in-state tuition

High school students protest outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Phoenix headquarters Sept. 5, 2017. (Derek Hall/DD)

DACA students are no longer eligible for in-state tuition, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In Arizona, there are about 2,000 students attending an Arizona college or university who are also recipients of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program grants protection from deportation and the opportunity to apply for work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The past few years these students were paying in-state tuition, either out-of-pocket or through privately funded grants and scholarships. Both Maricopa County Community Colleges and the Arizona Board of Regents were offering in-state tuition to DACA recipients despite a voter-approved proposition that forbade it. 

In a public statement released Monday, Arizona State University President Michael Crow said ASU remains committed to DACA recipients and college affordability. 

This clarification does nothing to alter our steadfast commitment to making higher education a reality for all Arizona high school graduates, including those who have DACA status,” Crow said in the statement. 

The Supreme Court ruling was a quick decision, but according to ASU senior and DACA recipient Oscar Hernandez, it was no surprise.

“When the court case came around, it was necessarily a shocker,” Hernandez said. “We knew the type of judges that the Arizona Supreme Court has (and) we were concerned about the possible outcome.”

RELATED: My story with DACA: An ASU perspective

Before coming to ASU, Hernandez went to community college, because tuition was cheaper than the state universities. Although he is graduating this spring, he worries for the DACA students who are in college or coming to college that have to find ways to afford the new increase in tuition.

Out-of-state tuition at ASU is about $20,000 more than in-state tuition. In-state is about $10,500 whereas out-of-state tuition is just over $28,000.

“They now have to get creative in paying their tuition, which is really unfortunate because not a lot of DACA recipients get to go to a university simply because there’s a lot of financial burdens,” Hernandez said. “It’s very heartbreaking to see what’s happening. It’s really unfair that we’re being targeted, there’s not that many of us but we just have to face this challenge and see what we can do.”

Prior to the ruling, acquiring in-state tuition was already difficult for DACA recipients because of their inability to access financial aid unless it comes from a private scholarship or grant. Any amount not paid by these scholarships or grants comes from out-of-pocket.

RELATED: Undocumented students face extra college affordability challenges

Vasthy Lamadrid is also a DACA recipient and student at ASU. She said the fight for DACA students to continue at Arizona universities has to come from the students themselves.

“Change is going to have to come from the students coming together and really fighting…and telling (Gov.) Doug Ducey to stop the hate against undocumented students,” Lamadrid said.

Lamadrid is also a student worker for the DREAMzone, an ASU collaborative program with the university faculty to provide DACA students with the resources to help them pursue a college career.

“DREAMzone has been developing a communication 101 system with DACA students, and we are trying to start our new advance that specifically helps out students with the emotional trauma that they might be losing their education,” Lamadrid said.

Hernandez said DACA students should fight to stay at universities, despite the tuition increases.

“If DREAMers have to just take less classes, work more hours, whatever they should do, then they should do that,” Hernandez said.

Contact the reporter at smedwar7@asu.edu.