Tuition policy may bring state lawsuit

By A. GREENE

The state attorney general may sue Pima Community College over the college’s decision to grant in-state tuition to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students.

Attorney General Tom Horne has asked PCC to explain its reasoning for allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, which he views as a violation of state law.

DACA students are those who were brought to the United States illegally as very young children.

People who meet DACA standards may apply for deferred action, which means they will not be deported. After two years, they will be eligible for work in the United States.

On Feb. 27, the PCC Board of Governors voted to let DACA students receive in-state tuition rates if they submitted an I-766 employment authorization document and met all other residency requirements.

The policy was implemented for the Fall 2013 semester. The change reduces annual tuition costs for a full-time student from $9,000 to about $2,000.

Of the 27,000 students enrolled at Pima this semester, 155 are DACA students. Immigrant advocates estimate that Pima County is home to about 4,000 illegal immigrant students.

In an Oct. 24 letter, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Kyman Cooper asked PCC to confirm that it “is granting in-state tuition to DACA recipients.”

She also requested that the college “provide us with the basis for Pima Community College’s conclusion that it could do so without violating the state law.”

PCC General Counsel Jeffrey Silvyn drafted a response letter confirming that DACA students receive in-state tuition.

Silvyn’s letter said the college scrutinized the policy’s legality before implementing it.

He also said the college understands DACA does not mean a change in immigration status. “However, proof of lawful immigration status is not required under federal law … for a student to qualify for in-state tuition,” Silvyn wrote.

Horne has already sued the Maricopa Community College District for extending in-state rates to DACA participants.

Silvyn wrote that PCC is monitoring that lawsuit.

“Pima College will continue to track the progress of the pending litigation, as well as developments in federal immigration legislation that may address and resolve this issue,” Silvyn wrote.

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