A “life-changer” is how Korina Iribe, 25, described the Arizona Board of Regents’ decision Thursday to allow young immigrants who have been approved for deferred action the ability to pay in-state tuition rates at Arizona’s three public universities.
“This will tell students that we want you here and that you’re going to be able to live your life and your dreams,” said Iribe.
Iribe was among the handful of Dreamers - as these young immigrants are known - who witnessed the Arizona Board of Regents take a unanimous vote Thursday on in-state tuition for DACA recipients. The federal program gives undocumented young people who were brought into the country as children a work permit and authorizes them to be lawfully present in the United States.
“As of today, the students who are DACA eligible with the appropriate credentials will be qualified immediately for in-state residency,” Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein said shortly after the vote.
The board’s decision came two days after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that DACA recipients are eligible for in-state tuition at the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest districts in the nation. The judge rejected arguments from former state Attorney General Tom Horne who filed the lawsuit in 2013, arguing that the district was violating a state law by allowing DACA recipients to pay in-state tuition.
When asked by reporters if it was violating any state law in granting DACA recipients in-state tuition, Arizona Board of Regents member Greg Patterson said the judge’s decision “applies to us and we will follow it.” He also said the board is aware that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is weighing all legal options, including an appeal of the judge’s decision.
“If it is overturned, well it’s overturned,” Brnovich said about the judge’s decision. “But we are not going to anticipate that it might be overturned.”
Moments after the vote, Arizona Board of Regents member Bill Ridenour noted the board had been discussing the issue of in-state tuition for DACA recipients for years and said he thought it was “past time we did something for these students.”
“I believe all they want is an opportunity for an education,” Ridenour said. “All they want is an opportunity for good jobs. All they want is an opportunity for a better future for themselves and their families.”
Iribe said the Arizona Board of Regents’ decision will make college more accessible for many of the estimated 23,000 Dreamers in Arizona who have been approved for DACA. She also noted that it took her six years to get an associates degree at a community college, because she could only afford to pay for one or two classes at a time. She’s currently taking online courses at Arizona State University, paying a reduced tuition price with the help of a private scholarship.
But now that she’ll be able to pay in-state tuition, Iribe said she’s looking forward to stepping onto a university campus as a full-time student.
“Now I’ll be able to sit inside a lecture hall and take classes and live the college life like I always dreamed,” she said.