Undocumented Students Organizing Against Maricopa Community Colleges Tuition Hike Approved, In Part, By Minutewoman

Maricopa Community Colleges
Debra Pearson: politician, Minutewoman, educator.

​Undocumented youth across the Valley are organizing demonstrations against the Maricopa Community College Governing Board after the MCCGB quietly passed a massive tuition hike its president warned is "targeted" at undocumented students last month.

The measure was supported by a minutewoman board member, Debra Pearson, who denied the measure had anything to do with immigration -- without mentioning her membership in the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

Arizona DREAM Act Coalition member Viridiana Hernandez tells New Times that students are organizing to demonstrate at the next MCCGB meeting on April 26 about the importance of their education, and to protest that such an important decision can be made at a tiny meeting "nobody attends."

Out-of-state students taking six or fewer credit hours pay $96 per credit under the current policies, with a rate increase for more credits. The new rules will charge out-of-staters $317 per credit, or about $1,000 per class, even if they take a limited schedule.

Board President Randolph Lumm expressed concern at the February board meeting that the change "targets" undocumented students.

Board member Pearson "strongly disagreed," according to the minutes, then praised the board for enforcing "the law."

"The law" responsible for charging undocumented kids more for their education than "residents," even though many undocumented kids live here and pay taxes, does not explain why part-timers ought to pay as much as those taking a full-time schedule. The tuition increase is a critical blow to undocumented students, who have been taking community college classes as a way to continue their education in this post-Prop 300 world.

What's worse about Pearson's stance isn't its bald-faced disingenuity -- it's that she's a hypocrite.

In a campaign posting, Pearson waxed folk-eloquently about being a poor rural girl who might never have become anything in life if not for community college.

"I love the people that it gives a chance, a shot at a new life, the sense that they are eligible to dream," she wrote.

Some of Pearson's other loves, according to her Facebook page, include "fast cars, trains, planes, a Harley with loud pipes, and the laughter of small children and a grown man's smile at a tender moment."

So why does she want to deny that same opportunity at an education to undocumented students? We left her a message but haven't heard back.

Maxima Guerrero, 20, is an undocumented student at Phoenix College. Pearson is her representative on the board.

"I'm not even sure I'm going to be able to go back to school in the fall," she tells New Times. "I was paying $300 per class. Now I'm going to pay $300 per credit. So then I would have to pay $1000 per class. If I could barely get $300 for one class, how am I going to get $1000 for one class?"

Of course, that's exactly the point with Arizona immigration policies, which take their cue from  state Senate President Russell Pearce in pursuing "attrition through enforcement." Who else would this law affect, the, um, thousands of Americans traveling across the country to attend Mesa Community College?

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