The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday approved tuition increases at the state's three public universities and directed staff to explore legal options to reduce tuition for some immigrants.
Students at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona face 3 percent tuition increases, while Northern Arizona University's incoming students will pay 5 percent more. The board unanimously approved the changes during its meeting in Tucson.
Board chairman Rick Myers also directed staff to look into in-state tuition for students who have received work visas under the Obama administration's deferred deportation program benefiting young immigrants. Under Arizona law, those immigrants do not qualify for in-state tuition.
"We do admire your personal desire to achieve more education and contribute," Myers told students who identified as living illegally in the United States at the meeting.
Under the tuition increases, ASU in Tempe would cost $10,002 for new resident undergraduate students. UA in Tucson will charge resident undergraduates $10,391 next year.
Tuition and fees for new resident undergraduate students at NAU in Flagstaff would total $9,738 next year. The school offers a guaranteed-tuition plan for incoming freshmen that freezes rates for four years.
The board also approved increases of up to 2.8 percent in fees for residence halls, student and family housing and meal plans.
Regent Mark Killian called the tuition hikes unconstitutional before voting for them. Board members and university officials described the increases as modest and noted that tuition from comparable universities is up to 17 percent higher.
Myers said the universities need more money to keep up with unprecedented enrollment and a drop in state funding. Enrollment at Arizona's public universities is up 17 percent since 2008.
"The Board of Regents is committed to helping Arizona students achieve their college and career goals and to providing the highly-skilled graduates needed to sustain a vibrant economy for Arizona," said Regent Anne Mariucci said in a statement after the meeting.
Gov. Jan Brewer has said young people in the deferred action program are still in the country illegally and should not receive "any taxpayer-funded public benefits."
Student Ana Valenzuela told the regents she was taking too long to graduate because she has to work to pay for tuition.
"There's absolutely no reason why I should take 10 years to finish a five-year degree in your college," she said.