In-state tuition for DACA students in limbo

More from this show

Though the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program does not go into effect until February, DACA recipients in Arizona face a more immediate challenge: potentially losing in-state tuition.

The Arizona Court of Appeals Court ruled in June that DACA recipients do not qualify for in-state tuition, a decision Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein does not agree with.

The Arizona Board of Regents voted to appeal the ruling, but Klein is hopeful that Congress makes a more permanent decision regarding the future of DACA recipients.


Ted Simons: The Arizona Board of Regents is calling on congress and President Trump to enact comprehensive immigration reform to give certainty to DACA recipients, this after the administration announced an end to the deportation protection program. The board also must contend with the controversial issue of tuition rates for DACA recipients. Joining us now is the president of the state board of regents, Eileen Klein. Good to see you.

Eileen Klein: Nice to see you.

Ted Simons: We will start with your general thoughts on DACA being rescinded.

Eileen Klein: It wasn't a surprise. The president has been signaling he has empathy for DACA students but not the DACA program. It wasn't a surprise but nonetheless a blow to the students. The amount of anxiety this has created and what status they have and what recognition they will. With our campus being such a home for many of these students you can imagine it brings all issues to our door step.

Ted Simons: Would DACA students lose the instate tuition they enjoy now? Would they lose that in six months?

Eileen Klein: I think the first thing to remember is we don't know what is going to happen. We are counting on congress to provide certainty. They have a window of opportunity and catalytic event from the president like they have never had before. This is a time for them to put forward thoughtful, sensible and most of all humane solutions for these students. That would resolve a lot of things for everyone. Even the attorney general acknowledged it would be helpful for everyone and we can stop the interstate talk about the tuition rates. First and foremost, we have to understand what is the fate of these students. Tuition is just one of many problems. If they lose this authorization to work, go to school and be in the military.

Ted Simons: So many aspects. Employment, service, and being students. And the economy as well. There is an overarching theme there. Let's get to the idea of you are still waiting for the supreme court to decide on whether or not these folks deserve instate tuition, correct?

Eileen Klein: And to be clear, it is a case that is really between the Maricopa Community College district and the state over allowing DACA students to receive instate tuition. The Arizona board of regents and public universities happen to be in the same section of statute. So it would be odd to have the university students targeted to not be allowed to have instate tuition at the same time community colleges have. This is an unresolved matter of law and a long-standing practice in this state and by the attorney general's office to wait until things are disposed of by the Supreme Court. Let's wait and see what the court decides to do. They will take the case or not take the case. In either case, we said the regents and university system are going to comply and follow the law. We think it is in the students’ interest and public's interest to wait.

Ted Simons: We just had the attorney general on and he commented on this. It sounds as though he does want to enforce the law and as he sees the law. As the appeals, court has ruled against you guys. However, it sounds like a former state lawmaker, Russell Pierce is ready to file his own lawsuit, which we can do with warning. Are you concerned about that?

Eileen Klein: I would say we don't want to thwart anyone's right to bring whatever action. But what is important is the attorney general is well involved in this. We have made our actions as a board in the best interest of the state. They remain in good faith. We like the attorney general are acting in good faith and what to do is wait for the court to resolve this. We need certainty from the court and congress.

Ted Simons: When the state court of appeals made the decision and voted against the eligibility was there a better way to deal with this as opposed to waiting it out and having to swat away the problems and criticism and challenges?

Eileen Klein: Real impact is of course on the students. We have been seeking whatever private funding we have we can find. You have tens of thousands of students who will be impact. These are edge waited people and have been planned to stay in Arizona. We don't see how it is in the states interest to throw it off track.

Ted Simons: This is available and folks who are eligible for DACA recipients?

Eileen Klein: It is a possibility but everything hinges on what becomes of the DACA program. What is essential is that congress finally and certainly decides what is the legal immigration status so they have certainty about their lives first and foremost and secondly so we can implement policy in accordance with the law. We are abiding by a long practice of the attorney general. All cases wait upon the final word of the Supreme Court. In the meantime, we hope congress acts. We want all of this to become a distraction. We want to get laws passed to support the students. We have almost 30,000 students eligible for DACA in Arizona and many are now in the community college pipeline. This is a long-term issue. That is why you are seeing so many leaders join. It is not in the interest of the state to spend more time and money on additional legal action when we are going to have answers from the court and congress soon.

Ted Simons: And you mention the Arizona delegation. Have you been in contact and if so what are you saying? If not what are your plans?

Eileen Klein: we have been issues statements very publically and passionately, want to put the plan together and give them the facts and let them know what we will, and won't do so they know we work within the law to make sure we see to their success and success to all students. Real quick. They are saying members of the board could be libel in this. They took their action to the board. There are stipulations and statues that if people are acting in the course of their assigned duties we represent the people and are immune from that type of liability and we hope reason prevails here.

Ted Simons: We will stay tuned. Good to have you here.

Eileen Klein: President, Arizona Board of Regents

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

The four men of Il Divo
airs June 2

Il Divo XX: Live from Taipei

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

A photo journalist walking a destroyed city

Frontline: 20 Days in Mariupol

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: