Students must show ID to get into MCC
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 14, 2007 03:43 PM
Students are facing long lines and busy phones in Mesa Community College's admissions offices as staffers seek to check enrollees' residency status in accordance with Prop. 300, which was approved by voters last year.
Maricopa Community Colleges, of which Mesa is the largest, began March 1 to implement Prop. 300, which requires students without legal residency to pay out-of-state tuition and prohibits them from receiving state-funded financial aid or scholarships.
"It has a major impact," said Linda Shaw, supervisor of admissions and recruitment at Mesa Community College. "We have had lines in our offices for the first time. We've never had lines before."
Students who have not submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which requires a valid Social Security number, must prove they are U.S. citizens or legal residents by showing documents such as a birth certificate, an Arizona driver's license or ID, and official immigration papers.
"We're moving through them as quickly as we can," Shaw said. "The phones have been ringing non-stop."
Students most often call asking about what documents they need to submit and where they must bring them. Some continuing students also question why they have to prove their residency.
"In general most of the students that we are working with have been pretty understanding and willing to provide the documents once we've explained Proposition 300," Shaw said.
Some students who are undocumented immigrants have raised questions about whether their residency status will be given to authorities in reports that must be submitted to the Legislature each year. The proposition requires that state colleges and universities report twice a year the number of undocumented immigrants who are denied in-state tuition or financial aid.
"We're able to let those students know that the reporting that's being done twice a year is not reporting of individual student information," Shaw said. "I think once we go through and explain that to the students, that puts the students at ease. We're able to assure them that this is strictly what you're paying in tuition . . . and that the students are still welcome and encouraged to enroll in the school."
Steve Helfgot, the college district's vice chancellor for student and community affairs, said the goal is to eventually verify all students' residency status via electronic databases.
The colleges have a system that allows admissions staff to check the status of federal student aid applications online. The district also is working on adding systems that admissions staff will use to check a federal program that verifies legal residency of non-citizens and the state Motor Vehicle Division. Arizona driver's licenses issued since August 1996 have required applicants to verify legal residency, Helfgot said.
It's unclear whether the district will spend more on checking legal residency than it saves by collecting more out-of-state tuition.
"I think that's an interesting question, and I think one of the things we are all watching is just that," Helfgot said.
The district, he said, is "working very hard to help students come to understand that Proposition 300 does not keep anyone from going to school. And yet - we don't have this verified - we're hearing that some students are staying away because they think they can't come to school, or they think if they come and they're undocumented, they will be reported somehow. . . . We will have a first guesstimate as to the impact of that when registration for the fall semester is complete."
Other students are surprised they must prove legal residency.
"There was an assumption in some places that only some people would be asked, but there's no way to implement the requirements of the law and only ask some people," Helfgot said.