The Arizona House approved a ballot referral called S.C.R. 1044 which will allow Arizona voters to decide whether illegal aliens should qualify for in-state tuition at community colleges and state universities beginning in 2022. The ballot referral passed 33-27 in the House on May 10, with four Republicans joining the 29 minority Democrats. The Arizona Senate passed the measure in March with three Republicans and 14 Democrats supporting.
Currently, Proposition 300, a 2006 voter-approved law, blocks any public benefits for individuals who are not legal residents or citizens. The proposition passed with more than 71 percent of residents supporting the measure. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients were previously given in-state tuition at Arizona’s three state universities until a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling determined that they do not qualify for the subsidized tuition offered to legal residents.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, six states including Arizona currently bar illegal aliens from in-state tuition. If S.C.R. 1044 passes in 2022, qualifying students must have lived in Arizona for at least two years and graduate from a state high school.
Some Arizona Republicans argue that the requirements are too short and that the measure directly opposes the will of voters that supported Proposition 300. Republican Representative John Fillmore said, “I believe this policy that we are embarking on here is misguided, unfortunate, unneeded and is actually detrimental to the welfare of my county. Americans should not have to pay for non-American citizens, illegals, giving them favored status for their trespass and invasion into America.”
Rep. Fillmore’s assessment is accurate. According to a 2017 FAIR study, state educational expenditures, including public school costs and post-secondary tuition assistance, total more than $44.4 billion annually. For the 2019/2020 academic year, the average in-state tuition rate at four-year public institutions in the U.S. was $10,440 per year, while the average out-of-state tuition was $26,820. That difference in education costs is typically footed by state taxpayers. Offering in-state tuition for illegal aliens is unfair to American citizens and lawfully present immigrant students.
Furthermore, granting illegal aliens in-state tuition rates is a violation of federal law. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 codified a federal statute (8 U.S. Code § 1623) that essentially states that in-state tuition cannot be offered to illegal aliens if that same discount is not extended to all American citizens. Measures like S.C.R. 1044 ignore the negative impact that such policies have on low to modest income Americans. American citizens should be given precedence over illegally present foreign nationals to receive assistance and tuition discounts as such measures further incentivize and reward unlawful activity.