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MCC, PVCC Support Their DACA Students

Adianna Bermudez

Adianna Bermudez

Adianna Bermudez, Editor

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On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit Maricopa Community Colleges (MCC) from granting in-state tuition rates to DACA recipients, caused emotions to rise among Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) students, faculty and staff.

Dreamers Face Continuous Uncertainty in Arizona

According to an article entitled “Arizona Appeals Court overturns in-state tuition for Dreamers” by Anne Ryman and Daniel Gonzalez, from azcentral.com, Proposition 300 passed in 2006 with 70 percent of Arizona voters approving it. Prop 300 requires all people who wish to receive “state funded services” to verify their immigration status. State funded services include in-state tuition rates and financial aid for college students.

In 2012, the Obama administration created the DACA program to allow immigrants brought as children to apply for work permits and deportation deferments so they could remain legally present in the U.S. It is important to note that the Department of Homeland Security emphasized that legal presence does not equal legal status.

In 2013, in response to the new DACA program, MCC determined that DACA recipients with work permits were eligible for in-state tuition. However, not everyone agreed. The then state Attorney General, Tom Horne, sued MCC claiming that the decision to grant in-state tuition to DACA recipients with work permits violated Prop 300.

In 2015, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson ruled that federal law overpowered the state law in determining who qualifies as lawfully present therefore the Maricopa colleges were allowed to move forward with their decision.

In 2017, the Arizona Court of Appeals overruled Anderson’s ruling. They decided in-state tuition was not to be granted to DACA recipients. Finally, in 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with that ruling.

According to the same azcentral.com article, there are 2,056 known DACA recipients attending Maricopa colleges.

MCC Stands with Their DACA Students

The MCC Governing Board  has not ignored the AZ Supreme Court decision. A page on the MCC website alerts DACA recipients that their tuition rates may change. They urge students to contact their school’s Admissions and Records office with their questions. But with much left to be officially decided, what shall MCC employees tell the worried DACA students?

The Board remains in constant contact with their colleges. Emails from the Board inform MCC faculty and staff how to handle the situation. Jeanette Cernetic, director of business services at PVCC, explained that the Board wants all Maricopa colleges to send the same message to their DACA students; they are safe and the Board is working hard to find a solution.

At the time of this writing, the most recent email, sent from the Office of General Council, discussed what Maricopa faculty and staff should do at this time. The first step is to identify all DACA recipients attending each college because not all of these students have identified themselves. Next is to contact them. Communicating with DACA students is crucial, explains Cernetic. “The community colleges don’t want them to leave,” Cernetic said. “We want to offer them hope,” she said.

The email provided some hope.

The email also explained that DACA recipients currently enrolled at a Maricopa college will still be granted in-state tuition rates for the Summer and Fall semesters while incoming DACA recipients must pay out-of-state tuition. The email explains that the Board has come to this conclusion because there is no specific action requested in the AZ Supreme Court order. “They told us what to do but not how to do it,” said Cernetic.

PVCC Faculty and Staff Offer Solutions

“It’s unfair,” said Jenny Wright, PVCC librarian, about the AZSupreme Court decision. “And it’s not happening in other states.”

According to Wright, there is a strong group of PVCC faculty and staff that are concerned about this ongoing situation and want to help the DACA students.

“Our role here is to keep students informed so that they know the different options that they have,” said Ivette Quintero, manager of the recruitment office at PVCC. Quintero wants DACA students to be aware of the options available to them.

Regina Garcia, students services specialist and recruiter at PVCC, said, “An important part in helping these students in a time of uncertainty is trying to find private funding.” Private funding could help incoming freshmen who are DACA recipients afford the higher tuition.

“That’s the key,” Quintero said. She explained that the district is looking for private funding through the MCC Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that accepts contributions from private and public sources.

Other options that DACA recipients could consider are payment plans and starting as a part-time student. “Students could take one or two classes at a time until something changes,” Quintero said. However, Quintero added that providing in-state tuition rates to DACA recipients would be the best outcome, for it is a reasonable price for them to pay considering they do not qualify for federal financial aid.

Wright, Quintero and Garcia are advisors to the Hispanic Student Association (HSA) at PVCC.

“We’ve been involved,” Wright said. She said the HSA has held informational sessions for faculty wanting to know more about the AZ Supreme Court ruling. The HSA’s main focus is establishing a scholarship for DACA recipients. “There is more we can do to fundraise and contribute to scholarships to help DACA students,” Wright said.

“Unfortunately, that takes time,” Quintero said. “We hope that by next year there is some money available to support our students.”

“PVCC students, faculty and staff really support DACA students,” Quintero said. “And we recommend that they continue to work on their education.”

Quintero wants DACA students’ voices to be heard. “If somehow their voices can get to our district, our administration and board of directors can understand that there is a need,” she said. “I am hopeful that they will make changes not only in our district but federally as well.”

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MCC, PVCC Support Their DACA Students