The University of Arizona

ABOR Revises Residency Policy for Enrolled Members of Arizona Tribes

University Communications | December 17, 2013
About the policy change, ABOR President Eileen Klein said: "This is excellent news for Arizona’s Native American communities and our three universities. The board is committed to student success and this policy revision is reflective of that commitment and the board’s recognition of the higher education needs of the Arizona American Indian tribes." (Photo credit: University of Arizona RedBar)
About the policy change, ABOR President Eileen Klein said: "This is excellent news for Arizona’s Native American communities and our three universities. The board is committed to student success and this policy revision is reflective of that commitment and the board’s recognition of the higher education needs of the Arizona American Indian tribes." (Photo credit: University of Arizona RedBar)

The policy changes go into effect for the spring 2014 semester.

"This will help the talent pool of American Indian students to grow and strengthen, and will also lend to an expansion of academic program offerings that meet the needs of American Indian communities at each university," said Karen Francis-Begay, the UA assistant vice president for tribal relations. (Photo credit: University of Arizona RedBar)
"This will help the talent pool of American Indian students to grow and strengthen, and will also lend to an expansion of academic program offerings that meet the needs of American Indian communities at each university," said Karen Francis-Begay, the UA assistant vice president for tribal relations. (Photo credit: University of Arizona RedBar)

Beginning next semester, all students who are enrolled members of sovereign Arizona federally recognized Native American tribes will be eligible for in-state tuition even if they left the state to attend college elsewhere.

The change – contained in recently approved revisions to the Arizona Board of Regents residency policy – provides an incentive for American Indian students from Arizona tribes who attend out-of-state colleges to return to Arizona to complete their degrees.

Approximately 4,200 American Indian students currently attend one of Arizona’s state universities either as an undergraduate or graduate student.

"The current residency policy has hampered recruitment of outstanding American Indian students who choose to attend other institutions out of state, and it has placed stress and strain on families and students who have had pay out-of-state tuition fees," said Karen Francis-Begay (Navajo), the UA assistant vice president for tribal relations.

"The revised policy will provide an affordable college education and is expected to increase American Indian enrollment numbers at Arizona's universities,” Francis-Begay said. "Also, the new policy represents consistency across all of Arizona's universities of terms of interpreting and supporting residency of American Indian students who are enrolled citizens of Arizona tribes."

More than 35 tribal colleges exist is at least 13 states. These largely two-year institutions attract many Arizona Native American students who will consider transferring to four-year universities. Previously, ABOR residency classification policy would have prevented these students from being considered for in-state tuition, prompting many of these students to remain in the state of the tribal college.

"Due to lack of infrastructure and jobs, many Arizona tribal members move off-reservation to work and attend school," said Regent LuAnn Leonard, executive director of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund. "By approving these policy changes, the board acknowledged this reality for Arizona tribes while ensuring that students who have been moved away know that our universities are working to welcome them back home."

The policy revision is not retroactive to previous semesters. Continuing students who have been classified as non-residents must change their residency classification.

"This is excellent news for Arizona’s Native American communities and our three universities," said ABOR President Eileen Klein. "The board is committed to student success and this policy revision is reflective of that commitment and the board’s recognition of the higher education needs of the Arizona American Indian tribes."

The revised policy states: "For purposes of residency classification, enrollment as a tribal member in a federally recognized Arizona tribe will be sufficient to establish residency for tuition purposes." To be eligible for in-state tuition under this revision: 1) the student must provide proof of being an enrolled tribal member; 2) the tribe must be one of Arizona’s federally recognized tribes and 3) the student must be a U.S. citizen, or a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., or have lawful immigration status in the U.S.

"I commend the Board of Regents for taking this important step that encourages Arizona’s American Indian students who have moved away to return to our state to further their education," said John R. Lewis, executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. "Ultimately, it will aid in strengthening workforce development and diversity for our state."

Francis-Begay said the policy has other long-term benefits, including enhanced economic development for both the state and tribal nations, noting that many students will likely remain in-state for future employment.

"Also, American Indian leadership will be more likely to encourage their youth to attend one of Arizona's state universities at an affordable cost," Francis-Begay said. "This will help the talent pool of American Indian students to grow and strengthen, and will also lend to an expansion of academic program offerings that meet the needs of American Indian communities at each university."