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This combination of photos shows from left, Republican candidates for Arizona governor Karrin Taylor Robson and Kari Lake prior to an Arizona PBS televised Republican debate June 29, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP) This combination of photos shows from left, Republican candidates for Arizona governor Karrin Taylor Robson and Kari Lake prior to an Arizona PBS televised Republican debate June 29, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP)

This combination of photos shows from left, Republican candidates for Arizona governor Karrin Taylor Robson and Kari Lake prior to an Arizona PBS televised Republican debate June 29, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP)

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe August 1, 2022

Ad about reduced tuition for Arizona’s immigrant students leaves out important information

If Your Time is short

  • While on the Board of Regents, Karrin Taylor Robson voted to allow students who qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to continue paying in-state tuition while a case over their eligibility for this rate was resolved in the courts. 

  • Robson also voted to allow students in the U.S. illegally to qualify for a lowered out-of-state tuition rate if they meet other requirements.

  • This tuition is unsubsidized, meaning the government does not pay for it. Students who are in the country illegally are not eligible for financial aid or student loans.

In the Republican primary race for Arizona governor, Kari Lake, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, claimed that one of her opponents, Karrin Taylor Robson, is "anti-America First."

In a 30-second TV ad that Lake tweeted July 7, she said Robson "gave illegals tuition discounts and made us pay for it." 

Lake also made the claim July 6 on Steve Bannon’s podcast "War Room," saying Robson "voted to give illegal immigrants a reduced tuition less than what American students had to pay." 

Robson served on the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body of Arizona's public university system, from 2017 to 2021.

Lake’s campaign said the claim is based on three Arizona Board of Regents votes on tuition for students in the country illegally.

The claim is partly accurate.

Students in the U.S. illegally who graduate from an Arizona high school qualify for a reduced out-of-state tuition rate in Arizona’s public universities — the board, including Robson, voted to allow this. (They do not qualify for in-state tuition.)

But this reduced out-of-state tuition is unsubsidized, meaning taxpayers do not pay for it. 

Also, the discounted rate isn’t available only to immigrants illegally in the country. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are also eligible if they meet the specified requirements.

How tuition criteria has changed over the years

In-state tuition for Arizona students in the U.S. illegally has undergone years of legal challenges.

A 2006 Arizona ballot initiative, Proposition 300, prohibited in-state tuition for students in the U.S. illegally. However, in 2012 the Obama administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which prevents the deportation of immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children.

As a result, the Maricopa County Community College District began offering eligible DACA students in-state tuition, by accepting their employment authorization as evidence of residency. In 2013, then-Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne sued Maricopa Community College District over this decision, saying it violated Proposition 300.

A Maricopa County Superior Court in 2015 ruled that extending in-state tuition to DACA recipients was not illegal. That same year, the Arizona Board of Regents voted to allow in-state tuition for eligible DACA students. Robson was not on the board at the time. 

In June 2017, the Arizona Court of Appeals struck down the lower court ruling, saying DACA beneficiaries were not eligible for in-state tuition. Maricopa Community Colleges appealed the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.

That same month, on one of Robson’s first days on the Arizona Board of Regents, the board voted 7-1 to continue providing in-state tuition for DACA students while the case was under litigation. Robson supported the measure.

In 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court and ruled that DACA students were ineligible for in-state tuition.

In response, the Board of Regents prohibited in-state tuition for DACA students, but turned to a 2015 board rule that allowed it to provide lower tuition costs for Arizona’s DACA recipients. That rule created an unsubsidized "high-school graduate nonresident tuition rate," of 150% of in-state tuition for students who were ineligible for in-state tuition but met a set of criteria.

The rate became an option for students who met all three requirements below:

  • Attended an Arizona high school for at least three years;

  • Graduated from an Arizona high school; and

  • Were "lawfully present" in Arizona. (DACA recipients are considered to be "lawfully present;" that’s not the same as having legal status.)

In 2019, the board unanimously voted to amend the 2015 policy so that all students who live illegally in Arizona, not just DACA recipients, are also eligible for the reduced nonresident rate. 

Currently, in-state tuition at Arizona State University, one of the three public universities the board oversees, is about $13,000 a year. Nonresident tuition is around $19,000 a year, and the out-of-state tuition cost is $32,000 a year.

In 2021, the board, in a symbolic vote, affirmed its support for legislation that makes DACA recipients and other Arizona high school graduates eligible for in-state tuition. This vote did not change any policies.

In November, Arizonans will vote on a measure seeking a partial repeal of Proposition 300. 

Arizona taxpayers do not pay for the nonresident tuition rate

Lake’s ad misleads voters by claiming that Robson’s votes placed the tuition costs on taxpayers.

A student who is eligible for the reduced tuition rate is responsible for paying it. 

Students in the U.S. illegally are ineligible for federal financial aid, and in Arizona, because of Proposition 300, they are also ineligible for state-funded financial aid. These students rely on their own money and private assistance to pay for college.

Arizona spends less than most states on higher education, according to data from the Urban Institute. A large part of Arizona’s higher education funding comes from tuition payments, not taxpayer dollars. 

All students who graduate from an Arizona high school, regardless of their immigration status, are eligible for the discounted out-of-state tuition rate if they meet all required criteria.

Our ruling

Lake claimed that Robson "gave illegals tuition discounts and made us pay for it."

While on the Board of Regents, Robson voted to allow DACA students to continue paying in-state tuition while a case over their eligibility for this rate was resolved in the courts. She also voted to allow students in the U.S. illegally to qualify for a lowered out-of-state tuition rate if they meet other requirements.

This tuition is unsubsidized, meaning the government does not pay for it. Students illegally in the country are not eligible for financial aid or student loans.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Lake for AZ Governor Ad, Real Rino,  accessed July 20 2022

Tweet, Kari Lake for AZ Governor, July 7, 2022

Kari Lake for Arizona, Kari Lake Joins War Room Pandemic Discusses New Ad On Border Invasion, July 6, 2022

Email exchange, Kari Lake for Governor, July 19, 2022

Email exchange, Arizona State University, July 20, 2022

Email exchange, Karrin Taylor Robson for Governor, July 20, 2022

Email exchange, Arizona Board of Regents, July 21, 2022

Ballotpedia, Ballot initiative, accessed July 20, 2022

KAWC, What measures will be on the November ballot in Arizona?, July 5, 2022

PolitiFact, Courts are still debating the legality of DACA, June 29, 2022

Arizona Republic, Arizona Appeals Court overturns in-state tuition for 'dreamers', June 20, 2017

Maricopa Community Colleges, Maricopa community colleges sued over in-state tuition for migrants, July 1, 2013

Maricopa Community Colleges, MCCCD Sued Over In-State Tuition for Migrants, June 26, 2013

Superior Court of Arizona Maricopa County, State of Arizona, et al. v. Maricopa County Community College District Board, May 5, 2015

Courthouse News Service, Immigrants Win Bid for Arizona in-State Tuition, May 7, 2015

Arizona Board of Regents, ABOR Statement on In-State Tuition for DACA Students, May 7, 2015

Arizona Board of Regents, Minutes of a special board meeting, June 29, 2017

Arizona Board of Regents, ABOR Statement on Court Decision Regarding DACA Students, June 29, 2017

Justia, State ex rel. Attorney General v. Maricopa County Community College District Board, May 1, 2018

Arizona Board of Regents, Statement from ABOR Chair Bill Ridenour Regarding Arizona Supreme Court Decision in MCCCD Case Prohibiting In-State Tuition for DACA Students, April 9, 2018

Arizona Board of Regents, Minutes of a Regular Meeting, May 4, 2015

Arizona State University, Non-Resident Tuition Rate for Arizona High School Graduates, accessed July 20, 2022

Arizona Board of Regents, New Arizona Board of Regents proposed High-School Graduate Non-Resident Tuition Rate undergoes first review, May 14, 2015

Arizona State University, First-year student from Arizona Cost of college and financial aid, accessed July 20, 2022

Arizona Board of Regents, Minutes of a Special Board Meeting, Aug. 22, 2019

Arizona Board of Regents, Proposed Revision to ABOR Policy 4-202 "Non-Resident Tuition Rate for Arizona High School Graduates" (First Reading and Immediate Implementation), Aug, 22, 2019

Arizona Board of Regents, ABOR Approves Update to Non-Resident Tuition Rate for Arizona High School Graduates Tuition Policy, Aug. 22, 2019

Arizona Board of Regents, Highlights of ABOR Meeting: Policy Revision for Non-Resident High School Graduation Rate; Technology and Research Initiative Fund, Free Expression, Cost Containment Reports, Aug. 22, 2019

Arizona Board of Regents, Minutes of a Special Board Meeting, Jan. 28, 2021

Arizona Board of Regents, Arizona Board of Regents takes positions on bills, addresses remaining count of Attorney General lawsuit, Jan. 28, 2021

Arizona Mirror, Regents reduce tuition for immigrant students, AZ high school grads, Aug. 22, 2019

WBUR, Arizona Puts DACA Recipients' Access To In-State Tuition On The 2022 Ballot, May 14, 2021

Arizona Republic, Arizona 'dreamers' cheer in-state tuition from regents, May 7, 2015

The Urban Institute, State and Local Backgrounders, accessed July 26, 2022

Federal Student Aid, Financial Aid and Undocumented Students, accessed July 26, 2022

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