Will you now need a government issued photo ID to go to college in Arizona????

  Will you now need a government issued photo ID to go to college in Arizona????


Students' status in question
Colleges seek best way to verify legal residency

Anne Ryman and Yvonne Wingett
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 26, 2007 12:00 AM

Universities are wrestling with a dilemma in deciding how to implement Proposition 300, which forces illegal immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition.

Should colleges require all students to present documents to prove their legal status or just take students' word on a form?

The Arizona Board of Regents discussed the issue briefly in public for the first time Thursday but isn't scheduled to vote until March. The law was passed 11 weeks ago and went into effect Dec. 7.

The proposal before the board contains few specifics on how to implement the law, but universities say they are working on plans, which the regents likely will review.

If colleges require legal proof from students, that could create a bureaucratic nightmare, with tens of thousands of students bringing or mailing in documents that the schools must determine look legitimate, as employers now do.

It also could undercut the online registration process that most universities in the country offer. If they take only students' word, they will draw criticism that they are ignoring the intent of the law.

Former state Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix, who pushed the proposition, said that students should be required to show proof of legal residency and that anything less is an affront to voters.

"It definitely sounds like they are dragging their feet," Martin said of the regents, adding that if undocumented students are receiving state financial aid, it violates the law.

Regents President Robert Bulla said the board is working as fast as it can and is getting legal advice. Whatever is decided will be consistent for all students, and no group will be singled out, he said.

One set of local colleges already has made a decision. Maricopa County Community College District, which has more than 250,000 students at 10 colleges, is using the honor system for now, asking students to report whether they are citizens.

It warns students that they could be kicked out if they give false information. Signs explaining the law are being posted in admissions and financial aid offices. The district does not attempt to verify citizenship or Social Security numbers.

Proposition 300 was a ballot initiative overwhelmingly passed by voters in November. It requires students who cannot prove their legal immigration status to pay out-of-state tuition at the state's public universities and colleges. The law more than triples their tuition costs and prohibits them from receiving financial assistance with state money.

Schools also must report to the Legislature how many illegal immigrants attend their schools.

Colleges now ask applicants if they are citizens, but the schools have no procedures to verify the accuracy of the information.

Danny Ortega, a Phoenix attorney and Latino activist, says Arizona's universities and colleges are being diligent in taking their time to develop Proposition 300 policies.

"They have to be concerned about the potential for discrimination in the determination of legal status," Ortega said. "You have to write policies. You have to train people."

Bulla said the universities' policies will be in place for students enrolling for the fall semester.

Northern Arizona University officials said they may screen only those students who don't apply for federal financial aid, which is about 30 percent of undergraduates. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which a majority of students fill out, is sent to the U.S. Department of Education, which verifies Social Security numbers and citizenship with the Social Security Administration.

The University of Arizona also is likely to rely on the federal financial aid form as proof of legal residency, UA spokesman Johnny Cruz said. About 60 percent of UA undergraduates fill out the form.

Arizona State University did not provide details of its plan in progress, but President Michael Crow said the plan will be fully implemented by March 1.

Regent Ed Hermes, an ASU student, said it will be extremely difficult, "if not impossible," to implement Proposition 300.

"To ask for proof of citizenship is going to be chaos," he said, because of the large number of students served by the universities. About 120,000 attend ASU, NAU and UA.

Regent Fred Boice said he wouldn't be surprised if the universities went the route of screening students. People were in an uproar last year when identification was required at election polls, but it turned out not to be a big deal, he said.

Regent Ernest Calderón said screening would make him nervous. "I think we have to be very cautious we don't inadvertently violate someone's civil rights, and screening is a real area with a lot of liability," he said.

Undocumented students are afraid the law will derail their education.

Silvia 19, who doesn't want her last name used, attends ASU and was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was 2. She fears she will lose her ASU academic scholarship and have to pay out-of-state tuition. That would amount to $15,846 a year, or three times what she now pays.

Some students who are U.S. citizens say they are fine with showing proof of citizenship.

ASU junior Mark Foote said showing a birth certificate or other proof wouldn't be a hassle. He supports such a policy and doesn't think an exception should be made for those using federal financial aid forms.

"Any more in today's society, you can't take anyone's word for it," the Mesa resident said.