State Representative, Business Leaders Blast Maricopa Community Colleges for "Ugly, Angry, Mean-Spirited" Tuition Hike

Griselda Nevarez
Educators or politicians?

​It isn't just undocumented students upset with the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board anymore.

State politicians and business leaders showed up at last night's board meeting to condemn MCC's recent tuition hike targeting undocumented students.

Representative Catherine Miranda and her husband, ex-representative Ben Miranda, were in attendance alongside local attorney Martin Quezada, businessman Todd Landfried, and the Reverend Jarrett Maupin. Dozens of students and educators also spoke.

Pressure is beginning to mount on board members to reverse their tuition increase as new information emerges about the board's reasoning behind the measure.

As we have previously reported, the board voted to raise tuition for all students at its March meeting.

Legal residents of Arizona, classified as in-state students, had their tuition hiked by five dollars for the coming school year. The increase for out-of-state students, however, was almost 250 percent, from $96 per credit to $317.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 300 in 2006, legislation forbidding undocumented students from attending public colleges or universities without paying out-of-state tuition. It also forbids schools from giving public scholarships to anyone who cannot prove legal residency.

Undocumented students trying to work around the system have been taking six credits or fewer a semester, making them part-time students and entitling them to a lesser price for their classes.

Starting in the fall, however, part-time out-of-staters will have to pay more than $300 per credit, no matter how few classes they take.

MCC officials insist the change in tuition policies is simply an attempt to follow the law, in this case House Bill 2008, 2009 legislation mandating that anyone receiving a "public benefit" provide proof of lawful residency in the United States.

Ex-state Representative Ben Miranda addressed the room first, criticizing board members for breaking with their past declarations on HB 2008.

In 2009, the community colleges posted a Frequently Asked Questions on its website about immigration law that stated: "We know that mere admission and enrollment are not 'benefits.'"

The gist of it was that college is a service or a business, not a dole, so HB 2008 did not apply to enrollment.

Miranda admonished the board to consider the impact its tuition increase for part-time students will have on the lives of undocumented youth, the effect smaller enrollment numbers will have on the MCC's budget, and the damage this hike will do to the colleges' legacy.

Miranda also was critical of the board for failing to provide a cost-benefit analysis of its effects, or a report demonstrating the need for the tuition increase.

Until they can answer those questions, Miranda said board members should rescind the tuition increase, a call echoed by every speaker who followed him.

Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, demanded that the board revoke its decision until they can provide such a study.

Daniel Rodriguez, an undocumented community organizer, followed her and criticized the board for its interpretation of HB 2008.

By their "narrow" interpretation, he said, Rodriguez "can't even step into this building."

Erika Andiola appealed to the board's kindness, asking members not to close the door on her younger brother, who is graduating high school.

"If it doesn't touch your hearts," she added, with less humility, "it'll touch your pockets."

Carli Perez said the loss of revenue could potentially be more than $2 million for the colleges.

Itzel Carreon stood up with a simple statement of disapproval: "I'm here to show my frowny face."

Two representatives from the Latino Student Union at Grand Canyon University, Viridiana Hernandez and Tanya Jaramillo, told the assembled that GCU is friendly to undocumented students and provides merit scholarships regardless of status.

Attorney Martin Quezada questioned whether the board heard interpretations of HB 2008 other than the one that inspired their tuition increase.

If there was a funny moment all evening, it came when Jarrett Maupin stood up to speak, declaring that he wasn't going to adhere to any two-minute rule set by the board.

"You're going to have to deal with it," Maupin told Debra Pearson, the Minutewoman board member New Times has criticized for hypocrisy and dishonesty. "I have my long-form birth certificate.

"Some of you, particularly those of color, should understand what's going on," he stated near the beginning of a long speech against the board, drawing a comparison between racism against African Americans and Latinos.

When Pearson attempted to enforce the two-minute rule, he told her his time was paid for by "the blood, sweat and tears" of the Civil Rights movement.

At the end of his speech, Maupin repeatedly admonished the board to "do the right thing."

Chairman Lumm remarked about the board not being allowed to legally comment on items raised during the public comments until the next meeting.

Maupin said he wanted a wink or a hand gesture from someone that they would do the right thing. Flustered, Lumm suggested that wasn't possible.

"My question was, 'Who will do the right thing?'" Maupin pressed.

Pearson called for him to step down once more, angering Maupin. "You can take your egg timer and shove it," he told her, prompting Pearson to answer that this was becoming a legal issue. Security told Maupin to step away from the lectern, and he eventually did.

State Representative Catherine Miranda spoke last.

She recalled a recent encounter with a colleague at the statehouse, where they reflected on their year in the Legislature.

They remembered that the Utah Compact described Arizona as "ugly, angry, and mean-spirited."

Last year's bills attacking health services, Miranda suggested, were ugly. Bills allowing guns on campus were angry. And the birther bill was mean-spirited.

Community colleges represent the last hope for undocumented students, she said.


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