Maria Dominguez speaking into megaphone Maria Dominguez speaks at an Aliento event.
Photo courtesy of Diego Nacho

“The probability for someone like me— undocumented—to go to college is, like, very low.”

Maria Dominguez came to the US from Mexico in 2005, when she was less than a year old. 

Now she is a sophomore at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. 

While Dominguez’s classmates are starting to talk about plans for college, she is unsure if she will be able to join them in higher education given her immigration status. 

“The probability for someone like me— undocumented—to go to college is, like, very low.” she told The Copper Courier. 

Currently, undocumented students in Arizona have to pay 150% of in-state tuition, or about $6,000 more per year at any of the state’s three public universities. This also includes Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals recipients.

If college were in reach, Dominguez said she would maybe study neurology or theater at the University of Arizona. 

But the prohibitive costs forces students like her “have to put their dreams on hold.”

A Shot at a Level Playing Field

Dominguez and other members of the Phoenix-based immigrant advocacy group Aliento are lobbying for the passage of SCR 1044, which would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. 

To be eligible for the subsidized rate, a student must have attended high school while physically present in Arizona for at least two years and graduate.

The resolution passed with bipartisan support in the Senate on March 4 and has been sent to the House. 

But if the House passes the resolution, it doesn’t go to the governor as a regular bill would. Instead, voters will have the chance to approve it on the 2022 ballot. 

This is because the resolution repeals part of Proposition 300, a measure Arizona voters approved in 2006. The proposition bars noncitizens from being eligible for in-state tuition and other financial assistance. 

More Opportunities on the Horizon

Dominguez is hopeful SCR 1044 passes so she can have a better shot at being able to attend college. 

“College is expensive. It’s not an easy thing to do,” she said. “For us to grow up here and not be able to get in-state tuition is, I mean, we should be able to get it because we grew up here just the same as anybody else.” 

She and other Aliento members are asking Arizonans to sign a pledge in support of SCR 1044. So far, it has nearly 4,000 names. 

The thought of being able to pursue higher education keeps Dominguez going while remote learning during the pandemic with three siblings at home. 

“Sometimes you lose that motivation when you find out that college may not be a thing you can afford in the future,” she said. “Those dreams and hopes you have of becoming something that your parents wanted to do, they’re just sitting there waiting to happen.”