Arizona Passes Amendment to Extend In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students

Proposition 308 allows all Arizona high school graduates, regardless of immigration status, to pay in-state tuition at a public college.

Published November 15, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
Arizona Passes Amendment to Extend In-State Tuition to Undocumented Students
Higher Ed Policy Student Voting
Photo by John Moore / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images

  • Proposition 308 enjoyed bipartisan support in the run-up to the election.
  • Arizona was also the center of close gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections.
  • The law applies to all undocumented students, not just Dreamers.

Students who graduate from an Arizona high school, regardless of immigration status, can soon pay in-state tuition at a local college or university.

Arizona's midterm elections included perhaps the most consequential ballot measure for higher education in the country: Proposition 308. The amendment, championed by those on the right and left, will make postsecondary education more affordable for undocumented students in the state.

A student must have attended school in Arizona for at least two years and graduated high school in the state to benefit.

The state's two most populous counties — Maricopa and Pima — helped push Proposition 308 over the top, according to election results.

Proposition 308 passed with 51.2% of voters in favor of the measure, according to The New York Times.

Bipartisan Support for Proposition 308

The immigrant-friendly ballot measure was a joint effort from the beginning.

Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer proposed the ballot measure to the Arizona Legislature in 2021. All state Senate Democrats and three of 13 Republicans voted to add it to the midterm ballot. All Democratic members of the state House of Representatives voted in favor of the measure, joined by four of 27 House Republicans.

Former President Barack Obama was perhaps the most high-profile figure to endorse the proposal.

"Congress still needs to take care of Dreamers, but in the meantime, you can vote ‘yes' on Prop. 308 here in Arizona to make sure Dreamers have access to higher education as the kids they grew up with," he said during a November rally in Arizona. "It's the right thing to do. It's good for Arizona; It's good for our economy."

Many local business groups and chambers of commerce also endorse the bill, according to Yes on 308.

Latest State to Lift Up Undocumented Students

Arizona isn't the first state to extend in-state tuition to local undocumented students.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least 22 states and Washington, D.C., already had tuition-equity laws before the 2022 midterms. That includes the surrounding states of California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

Undocumented students, including Dreamers, cannot access federal financial aid like Pell Grants. That makes in-state tuition important if they want affordable college degree programs.

Those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have work authorization, meaning they can hold a job to help afford school. However, Dreamers make up less than half of undocumented college students, according to Miriam Feldblum, co-founder and executive director of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

A Delayed Celebration for Arizonans

The Associated Press didn't call the results of this measure until a week after Election Day, but advocates were ready to celebrate once the news came through.

"Prop. 308 represents fairness and today we celebrate that our Dreamers will have a fair shot at higher education thanks to a diverse group of bipartisan business, faith, and community leaders who worked tirelessly together to achieve this result," Tyler Montague, Yes on 308 campaign chairman, said in a statement. "The Yes on 308 campaign is especially thankful to our Dreamers who bravely shared their stories to educate voters about the importance of tuition fairness and equal access."

Yes on 308 campaigned over two years to get this measure passed, the organization said. The campaign cost $6 million and included a fellowship program for 12 Dreamers.

The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration also celebrated the passage of Proposition 308.

"Arizonans have delivered a resounding message to the nation: Undocumented students are and should continue to be integral parts of our communities," Christian Penichet-Paul, director of state policy at the Presidents' Alliance, said in a statement. "We congratulate our Arizona partners, the bipartisan coalition, and the many undocumented students that delivered this victory on Proposition 308."