Proposition 300 Wildly Successful at Running Undocumented Students Out of Public Universities

Cronkite News
Christian Lira: an undocumented student whose scholarship is running out.

​State Republicans can pat themselves on the back: fewer undocumented students are getting educated. Which is what constitutes success in the Arizona Legislature.


In spring 2007, there were 1,524 undocumented students in Arizona's public universities. That number dwindled to 106 last fall as a result of Proposition 300, according to a report published by Cronkite News.

The piece looks at the human impact of Proposition 300, a 2006 ballot-initiative approved by Arizona voters charging undocumented students out of state tuition. Its effect was immediate, cutting enrollment by more than 1,000 undocumented students between spring 2007 and spring 2008, and more in the time since.

Undocumented students turned to community colleges as a means of pursuing their education in the wake of Proposition 300, but as we have reported extensively, that option was recently limited by Maricopa Community Colleges, which decided at its March board meeting to hike tuition rates for part-time out-of-state students by nearly 300d percent.

The Cronkite News report highlights the stories of several undocumented students: a high school junior at Trevor Brown, Carina Montes, with a stellar transcript who might not be able to afford college; community college students Claudia Gonzalez and Maxima Guerrero (whom we've written about before), who might not be able to afford to attend community college anymore; and an ASU undergraduate, Christian Lira, whose scholarship is running out.

With the community colleges' recent tuition hike there are very few opportunities for undocumented youth to pursue their education unless they can find and win hyper-competitive private scholarships.

It's heartbreaking what these students have to go through in pursuit of an education, searching far and wide for small scholarships when their grades would entitle them to full rides if they had been born north of the border instead of having merely lived here their entire lives.

Considering the steep drop in enrollment post-300, it's amazing that anyone manages to find the funds and motivation to attend a university, or that they would choose to do it in this state.

When the topic of education for undocumented youth comes up, everyone remembers the remarkable students, like those spotlighted in the Cronkite News report or in our 2010 feature story about talented undocumented youth, but it's not hard to imagine that there are hundreds if not thousands of undocumented students in Arizona who believe their education is pointless and decide to either drop out of high school or give up on college.

We recently spoke with one of them.

Carlos Salazar, a pseudonym, is an undocumented high school senior at Camelback who told us he doesn't plan on pursuing his education past high school. Salazar "quit early" because he knew it would be immensely difficult to continue his education because of a lack of funding. He decided he would be better off working.

"If I had the chance, I would go to university. If I had a bigger chance or a bigger possibility, I would f------ get a doctorate," he told us. "I'd love to get more education. I love school. But it is how it is."

Salazar is only one student, granted, but it's not hard to imagine that there are many more out there there like him who consider out-of-state tuition an insurmountable roadblock. The numbers in Cronkite News' report bear this out, and Arizona legislators are getting exactly what they bargained for: an under-educated and disenfranchised segment of the population.

That's somehow supposed to be a good thing.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gregory Pratt
Contact: Gregory Pratt