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Arizona voters will decide in 2022 whether undocumented students can apply for public aid when attending higher ed institutions. Photo: Twitter-Aliento 

Arizona’s Prop 300 could see its days dwindle thanks to voters in 2022

A new ballot measure passed by state’s Senate could see voters repeal parts of the law that denies undocumented students public services like financial aid.

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Back in 2006, Arizona passed Prop 300, which required students that wished to receive public services, including in-state tuition and taxpayer-funded financial aid, to verify their immigration status.

This left many undocumented students without an opportunity to pursue higher education, and with the feeling that they are not worthy of being educated.

On Monday, May 10, 29 Democrats and four Republicans voted in favor of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 (SCR1044), which will give voters an opportunity to repeal parts of the 2006 law in the November 2022 general election.

SCR1044 will ask Arizona voters to weigh in on a ballot measure that would allow all Arizona high school graduates to be eligible for in-state tuition. It will also update the definition of state or local public benefits to exclude post-secondary education, which was previously closed off to undocumented individuals.

Rep. Michelle Udall, who moved through the Republican Caucus and brought the measure to the floor last week, said that SCR1044 will be beneficial for all of Arizona. 

“We need more educated youth to become tomorrow’s teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations, especially if we want to continue to lower taxes,” Udall said on the House floor. 

Sponsor of the bill, Republican Senator Paul Boyer, also commented on its benefits. 

“It’s a rarity when you can say you passed a piece of legislation that truly changes lives, and this bill changes about 2,000 lives every single year. We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” Boyer said. 

Each year, around 2,000 undocumented students graduate from state high schools with very limited access to affordable higher education options. 

In a virtual discussion held between various undocumented educators and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, a former student from Arizona, Yadira Garcia Apodaca recounted the story of how Prop 300 impacted her. 

When the 2006 law was passed, Garcia Apodaca lost her merit-based scholarship. The only way she was able to afford tuition at Arizona State University was through fundraising. Even after she got her degree in math education, she wasn’t able to find a teaching position until DACA was passed.

On Monday, May 10, Benitez Sanchez also stood at the podium to tell his story. Sanchez, who is set to graduate from Brophy College Preparatory, became a tuition equity advocate at 16 years old, and was visiting the state Capitol to meet with lawmakers. 

“To be 16 and to be told you’re not enough to receive an education in Arizona, is heartbreaking,” Sanchez said. “Although this building has been the building that pushed legislation like SB1070, today we see that it did the complete opposite. Today we saw that true change can happen.” 

Sanchez knows this change will come too late for him, but his younger sister Maria, who is 16, now has a chance to afford college. 

SCR1044 is addressing the tuition equity issue that immigrant rights advocates, education organizations and business groups have been pushing for in recent years in the state legislature.

In 2019, the Senate approved a proposal that would create a reduced tuition rate for Arizona high school students regardless of immigration status, but it had no success in the House.

Later that year, the Arizona Board of Regents adopted a policy that provided high school graduates who don’t qualify for in-state tuition a reduced rate of $9,000-18,000 at the state’s three public universities, regardless of immigration status.

At a press conference on Monday, May 10, Udall said that the bill is essential “to the economic well-being of our state.” 

She also spoke to the students who will benefit from in-state tuition if voters do approve the repeal of Prop 300 next year. 

“Please take advantage of this opportunity to get a good education. Go to college, it’s not going to be easy. I hope that when that day comes you’ll look back on this day, you’ll remember what it took to have the opportunity to have those difficult classes,” she said. 

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