ASU scholarships snub Prop. 300's intent
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 12, 2007


Last November, seven out of 10 voters decreed that no longer shall undocumented immigrants get in-state tuition or any public help in covering the out-of-state tab.

The voters spoke. But as is so often the case around here, they didn't get the last word.

From Tempe comes news that Arizona State University President Michael Crow and his crew have been handing out scholarships to students who are in this country illegally.

Unlike the courts, which ignored the voter-imposed no-bail law until the Legislature put a stop to it, Crow believes he's found a legal way to thumb his nose at Proposition 300.

Scholarship money for undocumented students is coming from the school's private stash, not the public stuff.

And so the state's top educator has outfoxed the state's electorate. Or has he?

State Treasurer Dean Martin, a former state legislator and the principal sponsor of Proposition 300, says ASU may be breaking the law. He plans to ask for an audit, among other things, to find out what, exactly, is going on.

"I think they have a serious problem," he told me Tuesday. "They may be in violation of the law. They definitely are in violation of the spirit of the law."

Personally, I've always thought we ought to give students who are here illegally a break, on the theory that they came as little kids and had no say in the matter. But what I think - or what Crow thinks - doesn't really matter. Arizona voters made their feelings crystal clear in November, making Saturday's headline all the more startling: "ASU helps migrants find tuition."

The details are hard to come by.

Virgil Renzulli, ASU's vice president for public affairs, says 122 undocumented students registered for classes at ASU this fall. But he won't know until later this week how many are actually attending or how much in scholarships they've been given.

Renzulli says no state money was spent to raise the funds. It's all private dough, raised by the ASU Foundation, the university's non-profit arm, which in turn gives it to the university's financial office to dole out.

Some of the money was raised specifically for undocumented students, he says. Other funds came from a pot of private scholarship donations, to be used as the university sees fit.

"They (the donors) trust the university to make those decisions," he told me, adding that school officials have gone back to some donors and gotten their OK to award the scholarship money to undocumented students.

Fred Boice, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, said he was aware of what Crow is doing and has no problem with it.

"If people (private donors) don't want their money used that way, their voices will be heard," Boice said. "But until they are, I applaud Michael for doing what he can to help these kids get an education."

Martin isn't applauding. He initially had no concerns, saying he assumed that private donors were giving scholarships directly to undocumented students. But scholarship funds at the university's disposal - funds that often could go to legal residents who are now graduating college saddled with loans - should be going to students who are legally here, he says.

"I believe it's very likely that they're violating the law. If not the letter of the law, they're definitely violating the intent of the law," he said.

Renzulli, meanwhile, says that Proposition 300 restrictions don't apply because the money is never transferred to a public fund.

"The decision on who it goes to would be made by the financial-aid office," he said. "But that doesn't mean it's our money."

Cute, huh? I'm sure voters will appreciate the distinction.

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