Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board: Doing Legislature's Bidding is Our Job. Won't Reconsider Tuition Increase

Griselda Nevarez
Board tells critics it cannot change policy without changes in state law.
We reached out to the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board after last week's board meeting to ask if they plan on reconsidering their tuition hike targeting undocumented students.


We also asked board members to address the criticisms levied against the board last Tuesday night that they were misinterpreting state law, acting without fully exploring the consequences on students and programs at the community colleges, and carrying water for right-wingers in the Legislature.

Maricopa Community Colleges' spokesman Tom Gariepy got back to us with a statement acknowledging that the district is going to lose money because of the increase, arguing that it is the board's "obligation" to do "the Legislature's bidding," and declaring that the tuition increase will not be reversed. Read the full statement after the jump.

1. The Board can always request more monitoring information or ask that the Chancellor re-examine the issue if presented with information it has not considered. Board President Lumm raised concerns beginning with the first reading of the recommendation. He and other board members requested additional information which was provided. However, the board has not requested that the Chancellor re-examine the issue. The citizens who spoke at the meeting did not raise any issues and questions the district staff failed to consider and address. The Board does not have the option to reduce the rate, because doing so would violate state law.

2. The administration recommended the tuition change to the Board because the staff believes this action is required by a new state law, Section 1-502 Arizona Revised Statutes. This law goes beyond Proposition 300, which prohibits grants of instate tuition and financial aid to undocumented students. It prohibits the district from conferring any "state or local public benefits" as well. "Benefit" is a synonym for "subsidy." Postsecondary education benefits are specifically covered (section 1-502 I, ARS). Using an existing standard formula, the District found that neither the existing out of state rate nor the part time rate covered the costs of an individual student's education (computed at $317 per credit hour). The rates were publicly subsidized, and therefore were prohibited as "benefits." They were functionally indistinguishable from instate tuition. Maricopa's new uniform out of state rate is not out of line with the rates of the other community college districts that have adopted uniform rates (Coconino, Mojave, and Graham Counties).

3. The people protesting the tuition increase expressed their feelings during the board meeting, as is their right. We respect those feelings, which arise naturally from their compassion for undocumented students. However, Board members are sworn to uphold the law as a condition of their office. They are not free to ignore or flout laws with which some members may disagree, as some speakers have suggested. One speaker suggested the District interpreted the statute too broadly: another insisted the interpretation was too narrow. However, no speaker claimed that the legislature did not intend to prohibit publicly subsidized education for undocumented students, or that the old part time rate was not subsidized. Instead, speakers complained that the District was doing the legislature's bidding. That is our obligation.

The place to effect the change the speakers want is the state legislature, which enacted Section 1-502, ARS, not the District, which is compelled to follow it. There is one other point to clarify. A number of speakers seemed to believe that the District had made this change to try to raise more revenue. The truth is that revenue had nothing to do with this decision, because we recognize that this change will result in a loss of some tuition dollars. Rather, the decision based entirely on the legislature's prohibition of postsecondary education benefits for undocumented students.

Starting in the fall, undocumented students in Maricopa County who cannot prove legal residency will have to pay $317 per class credit, effectively pricing community college out of their future.

Activists and educators have waged a spirited campaign to change the minds of the governing board, who seem to be digging in their heels. It'll be interesting to see where the students go from here.

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Truth to Power
Truth to Power

What nonsense. The board can't legally change something that hasn't been put into effect?  Where is that in statute?

And since when are synonyms legal justifications?  If you use the d-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y,  synonym means "a word that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language."  Sorry, Mr. P.R. guy, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. If this is the best excuse they've got, they're being amazingly lazy and intellectually dishonest.

These kids are paying for their education, so that isn't a benefit, it's a service. They're consumers. Even when you take into account ARS 1-502 and it's reference to 8 U.S. 1621, these kids aren't taking advantage of a benefit because they're not applying for one. And let's just ignore the reality these kids and their families are paying the very taxes that fund MCCCD.

(1)Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), for purposes of this subchapter the term “State or local public benefit” means—

(A)any grant, contract, loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an agency of a State or local government or by appropriated funds of a State or local government; and

(B) any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of a State or local government or by appropriated funds of a State or local government.

So, again, these kids are not getting a "benefit" in the legal sense of the term because they're not applying for any assistance for which they receive "payments or assistance." In fact, if you look up the word "benefit" in a legal dictionary, you see this:


1) n. any profit or acquired right or privilege, primarily through a contract.

So, if students ask for no financial assistance, there is no contract. Without a contract, there can be no benefit. If there is no benefit, there can be no justification the board's action based on something these kids aren't asking for and are not receiving.

This is another example of people who don't know how to punctuate a sentence not reading the freaking law as it is written. My how the MCCCD board's intellectual capacities have deteriorated.

Dulce Matuz
Dulce Matuz

The tuition hike is also affecting American Citizens and legal residents that are classified as out of state students.  

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

Now they'll have to increase the tuition for all students to make up for the loss and then no one will be able to afford to go to school.    Somehow I thought the idea of community college was to enable all the community to attend college since not everyone can afford to attend universities.    Universities are intended for the wealthy unless a scholarship is attained.   Before WWII, no one went to college unless they had money or was wanted by a coach.    Soon it will revert back to the pre war days.

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