It's official: undocumented students enrolled in Maricopa Community Colleges this fall will have to pay $317 per credit hour.
The Community Colleges Governing Board voted to implement its tuition increase targeting undocumented students in the fall by a 3-2 vote last night. The tuition increase was first passed in March but has drawn widespread criticism from students, administrators, and civic leaders, which led the board to reconsider the measure last night.
Under the current tuition system, out-of-state students pay a higher rate than in-staters. But out-of-state students -- which is how undocumented students are classified -- are allowed to pay $97 per credit hour if they enroll part-time, for six credit hours or less. The tuition hike eliminates this tier-system in favor of one much-higher flat rate.
Minutewoman board member Debra Pearson gave an impassioned speech in favor of immediately implementing the tuition increase, and she was joined by board members Dana Saar and Doyle Burke in voting to make it effective immediately in the fall. She also commented that she would like the board to raise money for private scholarships on these students' behalves.
Board President Randolph Lumm and member Donald Campbell voted to delay the tuition increase until next March, to allow community college staff more time to implement the increase. Campbell gave a powerful speech of his own in favor of opportunities for undocumented students.
In her speech, Pearson suggested that undocumented students should blame their parents, as Russell Pearce often says, for their situation.
"We don't do a cost-benefit analysis when someone breaks the law and robs a bank," she said. "Those parents go to jail, and their children suffer."
At another point in her remarks, Pearson said the board needed to implement the tuition increase to be in compliance with state laws limiting "public benefits" to illegal immigrants, then suggested that she would like to see the board raise money for private scholarships for undocumented students.
Board President Lumm simply said that the community college system was not ready to increase tuition at this time and that it would affect too many programs and administrators. He said he was okay with increasing tuition -- he just wants to "do it right."
When it was Donald Campbell's turn to speak, he said he has been on the board for 27 years and has always wanted to help people access education.
"My dad died when I was 9," Campbell said. "Mother died when I was 12. I spent 15, 20, 25 years mopping floors trying to get educated," supporting himself through high school, community college, and Arizona State University.
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"I'm determined that young people honestly trying to get educated do not have to go through what I went through," he explained, then cast his vote in favor of delaying the tuition increase.
The measure failed.
On the agenda was another measure to ask Attorney General Tom Horne for his opinion on whether the tuition increase is necessary under state law, but the measure was dropped after the board affirmed its tuition increase.
We left a message for Pearson asking when her first fundraiser for undocumented students will be held. We'll let you know if we hear back.