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Friday, July 25, 2014 | Last updated: 3:13am

Financial aid could open doors for undocumented immigrants



Many honors students, valedictorians and dreamers are deported to countries they barely recognize.

The National Immigration Law Center reports that an estimated 70,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year. This past summer, President Barack Obama announced a new federal immigration law called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which will give people like those students the chance to follow their dreams.

DACA is a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. for those who entered the U.S. illegally as children, sparing them from deportation. The program is under a directive from the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This legislation has given students who are deferred immigrants the opportunity to achieve the American Dream in Arizona. Tuition waivers at Pima Community College are now up for consideration by PCC’s governing board, following in the footsteps of 10 Phoenix community colleges.

To be eligible for these tuition waivers, students have to meet a set of criteria including being at least 15 years of age, enrolled in high school or a graduate and not being convicted of a felony offense, among a number of other requirements.

If these waivers are approved, it would ease the financial burden of achieving a degree, as qualified students would pay the in-state tuition rate, which is less than half of the cost of out-of-state tuition. Approved applicants can also get a renewable, two-year reprieve from deportation and are eligible for federal work permits.

However, this still does not apply to public universities in Arizona, according to the Arizona Board of Regents. ABOR interprets existing laws to mean that undocumented immigrants covered by the new federal program still don’t have lawful immigration status, and as such, aren’t eligible for reduced tuition. Only 10 states today offer in-state tuition, with more and more states making legislative pushes in that direction.

Without the support of national public universities, many of the undocumented immigrants may not be able to afford rising tuition prices at colleges. With its comparatively low tuition prices and a lenient acceptance rate, Arizona higher education has made it a point to make education accessible to as many people as possible, and that should include undocumented immigrants that qualify for DACA.

If PCC approves this new proposal to ease tuition costs, it would hopefully open the door to more community colleges, and eventually public universities, to aid students in obtaining a higher education, no matter what their citizenship status.

_—Razanne Chatila is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at
letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @razanne92._


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