PCC and state are at odds over in-state tuition for non-citizens - Tucson News Now

PCC and state are at odds over in-state tuition for non-citizens

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Out of Pima Community College's 27,000 students, 155 of them are at the center of a battle between PCC and the state.  They want higher education, and can afford it with in-state tuition.

"They may not ever have the opportunity to do that if they can't have the access to the higher education that they need it. So then we as a community lose the ability to have them as an engineer or in some other high-performing career," said PCC general counsel Jeff Silvyn.

The Pima Board voted 4 to 1 in late February to offer in-state tuition to students here who were brought here by their parents when they were children.  Those students must meet all other residency requirements and have federal employment authorization, which has been granted under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  Now they and PCC are in the middle of both the immigration debate as well as the conflict of state and federal law.

Attorney general Tom Horne's education chief sent PCC a letter last week saying "You should know that Arizona law prohibits community colleges from classifying those who are 'not a citizen or legal resident of the United States or who [are] without lawful immigration status' as in-state students for tuition purposes."

Pima's attorney responded Friday with a letter saying that state law "...provides that a political subdivision of the state, such as a community college district, shall require individuals to submit proof of lawful presence in the United States before receiving a public benefit like in-state tuition."  And he said that these students have the federal employment document to do so.

"This potentially is one of those cases, too, that ends up in the federal and U.S. Supreme Court arena, we've seen it before. Arizona is no stranger to that debate where the state issues and up in the federal court system or or Congress may end up resolving the issue," Silvyn said.

Just how Pima could be punished for this is uncertain.  They receive very little state funding.  But if the state were to replace community college funding that it cut in the past, that could become an issue.  PCC is watching how Maricopa Community College handles its lawsuit from the state.  Pima might be asked to participate when scheduling for that case happens in two weeks.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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