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Colleges OK'd to check citizenship

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Anne Ryman

The Arizona Republic

Most students who attend the state's three universities won't have to hand over additional documentation to prove their citizenship.

The Arizona Board of Regents gave universities permission on Thursday to implement Proposition 300, a voter-approved initiative that prevents undocumented residents from getting in-state tuition.

The proposal approved by the board will require students who want in-state tuition to present an Arizona driver's license issued after 1996, a passport or a birth certificate.

But if students successfully complete the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, they won't need to show additional proof becausethe FAFSA already screens students for citizenship. Maricopa Community Colleges, the state's largest community college district, announced earlier this week it will follow similar procedures.

Students will begin to see changes this semester. Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona plan to start asking students who didn't fill out the FAFSA to prove their citizenship or legal residence before the end of the spring semester.

About 60 percent of students at ASU and the UA already fill out the FAFSA, as do 70 percent of students at NAU.

Universities are relying on the FAFSA because it requires a Social Security number, which is sent to the U.S. Department of Education and verified with the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Proposition 300 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 undocumented immigrants are in attendance.

The proposition has been controversial because it more than triples the amount of tuition for undocumented residents.

Regent Gary Stuart said the process of verification will be complicated and expensive.

He said the board will ask the universities how much they spent on the program compared with how much they earned in charging more students higher tuition.

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