Arizona State University is in a predicament as are many other high ed. institutions around the country... and DREAM ACT students are caught in the middle.
Arizona's Colleges Are in the Crosshairs of Efforts to Curb
Chronicle of Higher Education
November 2, 2007,
Arizona's strict new limits on educational benefits for undocumented
immigrants that took effect at the beginning of this year have brought
new scrutiny to the state's colleges and their students and forced
educators to assume an awkward role as enforcers.
In the wake of a ballot measure that nearly three quarters of Arizona
voters approved a year ago, officials at the state's community colleges,
universities, and Education Department have redirected thousands of
students and adult learners who are not legal residents of the United
States to privately financed scholarships and education programs. The
new law prevents those individuals from paying lower, in-state tuition,
receiving state financial aid, or enrolling in the state's
The institutions also have spent thousands of dollars revamping their
admissions and registration processes to meet the new law's requirements
that they begin to document their students' residency status and keep
track of how many people cannot verify they are living in the country
Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, says
institutions are in a "difficult position" in the state's immigration
debate. As colleges put in place the requirements of the new law, known
as Proposition 300, he says, they are honoring their core educational
mission by working to help immigrant students struggling to pay the
higher tuition that the law requires such institutions to charge. At the
same time, college officials also know that a large number of state
residents would rather these immigrants be deported than enrolled in the
state's universities at all.
Other States Have Immigration Laws
Without federal action on broad immigration reforms, states like Arizona
are passing their own laws to try to deal with the growing number of
illegal immigrants who are arriving in their towns and to respond to the
urgent debates about what public resources should be available to those
immigrants. Ten states have enacted laws to specifically allow some
illegal immigrants who are graduates of state high schools to pay
in-state tuition at public colleges. (One state, Oklahoma, has repealed
its law, although some illegal immigrants will still be eligible for the
cheaper rates under the state regents' policy.)
Advocates of the approach argue that helping these students obtain a
higher education will pay economic dividends by training people who have
grown up in the United States to become part of a better-educated work
Taking a different approach, Georgia has enacted a law that its colleges
believe prevents them from charging in-state tuition to any illegal
immigrants. The restrictions on educational benefits in Arizona, where
an estimated half-million undocumented immigrants live, are among the
broadest. Advocates of these policies say taxpayers should not have to
subsidize the higher education of individuals who have violated U.S.
During the first six months the Arizona law was in effect, more than
4,600 people in Arizona were denied state-based financial aid, prevented
from paying cheaper in-state tuition, or rejected from adult-education
classes, according to a report released this summer by the state's Joint
Legislative Budget Committee.
Colleges have no way of knowing how many other potential students did
not even show up at their doors because of the new law. But at the
state's largest community-college district, Maricopa, enrollment dipped
by 3 percent this fall, even though the region's population is growing.
Administrators believe the drop is due, at least in part, to Proposition
"There are a lot of good students who have been impacted by this," says
Mary Lou Massal, dean of enrollment services at Glendale Community
College, which is part of the Maricopa district. She says her college,
for instance, can no longer provide state financial aid to help some
immigrant students who have participated in the institution's honors
program and a bridge program that helps prepare high-school students for
Proposition 300 also has further complicated an already-complex mix of
state and federal laws on education and immigration, Mr. Crow says, that
leave institutions trying to respond to policies that seem to be at odds
with one other.
Arizona's Constitution, for instance, requires the state to educate
every child from the age of six to 21. The U.S. Supreme Court has also
ruled that public elementary and secondary schools must enroll all
children, regardless of immigration status. And the state's Board of
Regents requires that Arizona's three public universities admit all
applicants who meet certain academic criteria.
Now Proposition 300 adds another wrinkle by making it more difficult for
some of those qualified students who have attended the state's public
schools to afford to attend Arizona's colleges.
"For us," Mr. Crow says, "it's confusing."
Monitoring Private Donations
The new law also has brought greater scrutiny to university operations.
Dean Martin, who was the lead sponsor of Proposition 300 and is now the
state's treasurer, wants to ensure that the state's institutions are not
violating the new law by using public resources when their foundations
award privately financed scholarships to illegal immigrants, who now
face tuition that is more than three times as high as that of in-state
Mr. Martin says he learned earlier this fall that Arizona State may have
used a process that violated the law as the university's foundation gave
out nearly $2-million in private scholarships to about 200 undocumented
If employees of the university have any say in awarding the aid to
specific undocumented immigrants, Mr. Martin says, that would be
illegal, even though all of the foundation funds came from private
sources. That is because foundation funds would become public money if
they are deposited in university accounts before they are allocated to
students. He has asked the state's Board of Regents to investigate what
public universities are doing and to establish procedures for the
institutions to follow.
"My interest is less in saying 'I gotcha,' but rather in making sure
that everyone follows not only the letter but the spirit of the law,"
Mr. Martin says, especially since the ballot measure passed by such a
After local newspapers reported that funds from Arizona State's
foundation were going to support undocumented students, and that public
funds may have been involved in administering the aid, Mr. Martin says
his office was flooded with hundreds of calls, including about a dozen
from donors to the university who "were very upset."
But Mr. Crow says he does not know of a single donor who has called the
university to complain, though he says various other members of the
public have expressed their unhappiness that scholarships, even private
ones, go to undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Crow also says the university and its foundation have been following
the law in how they distribute scholarships. University officials
provide a list of students with financial need to the foundation, and
then the foundation alone decides who will receive the scholarships, he
says. Many undocumented immigrants have risen to the top of that list
and are receiving the private aid because they need aid more now that
they are charged out-of-state rates, he adds.
This fall, full-time in-state undergraduates pay close to $2,500 per
semester at Arizona State, while students considered to come from out of
state have to pay just over $8,500 per semester.
Community Colleges Reach Out
Elsewhere, Maricopa Community College officials also direct undocumented
students to the district's foundation to apply for scholarships that are
financed by private foundations and individual donors.
Steve Schenk, chief executive officer of the Maricopa Community Colleges
Foundation, says the foundation has long had some donors who have
specified that they want their money to be given only to U.S. citizens.
But he says no additional donors have put that restriction on their
gifts since Proposition 300 was passed.
In fact, in the wake of Proposition 300, he says, he has heard from a
handful of foundations and individuals who have specifically said they
want their money to go to help undocumented students.
Across the Maricopa district, which enrolls about 170,000 students at 10
institutions, the number of students who are counted as coming from out
of state more than doubled, to 11,000 this fall from 4,800 a year ago.
Officials say they believe Proposition 300 played a significant role.
Ms. Massal of Glendale Community College says her institution has
actively sought to reach out to students who were likely to be subject
to the new restrictions to encourage them to enroll and make them aware
of how they could reduce their tuition bills.
The college held informational forums about the law and called many
individuals, including students who were enrolled in
English-as-a-second-language classes and who were identified by groups
that serve the Hispanic community.
Some students were not aware that they could still enroll at all, Ms.
Massal says, and many others did not know they had options to reduce
costs, such as by taking fewer courses. At Maricopa district colleges,
students who are classified as out-of-state pay $90 per credit hour if
they take less than seven credits in a semester and $280 per credit hour
if they take seven or more. In-state students pay $65 per credit hour.
Meanwhile, at Arizona's Department of Education, officials are sending
some of the more than 1,400 adults, or about 12 percent of applicants,
who are blocked from the department's courses because of their
immigration status to private programs. In the aftermath of Proposition
300, more churches and other community groups are starting to offer
literacy, English-language, and other classes, says Karen Liersch, state
director of adult education services.
She is worried about what the effects of Proposition 300 will be in a
state where more than one in four people speak a language other than
English at home and more than 16 percent of people 25 years and older
have not completed high school.
"There is a big need for adult literacy," she says. "It's important for
the Arizona economy and the Arizona work force."
She and other educators in the state still hope that Congress will
eventually enact new federal laws to lessen the pressure on states and
their institutions to figure out how to respond to the constant flow of
people coming across their borders.
"The federal government is not doing its job," says Fred Boice,
president of the Arizona Board of Regents. As a result, he says, Arizona
voters obviously felt they needed to take control.
"To punish college students seems pretty severe," he says of how Arizona
residents responded in crafting Proposition 300. "But, in my view, it
was a frustration measure."
Section: Government & Politics
Volume 54, Issue 10, Page A15