Colorado in-state tuition for undocumented students gains CSU support

The second time might be the charm.

After being defeated last year, a bill granting in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrant students is making its way through the Colorado senate for the second time –– and has a good chance of passing, according to the bill’s author, state Sen. Mike Johnston (D–Denver).

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Undocumented students would have to attend high school in Colorado, graduate and work toward citizenship, and meet other requirements to receive in-state tuition.

The bill has garnered more bipartisan support compared to last year, including an endorsement from Tom Massey, the Republican chair of the House Education Committee.

“We’re hearing from more and more Republican members who feel that we shouldn’t get in the way of folks who are trying to be productive, educated citizens,” Johnston wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Friday afternoon, the CSU Board of Governors –– comprised of 15 prominent Colorado business, nonprofit and community leaders as well as university faculty members and student body presidents –– supported the bill with a majority vote. CSU chancellor Mike Martin is not a member of the Board of Governors but said he supports the bill and works closely with the BOG.

Martin said one of the BOG members made a point that the state would have already invested time and money in providing a K-12 education by the time an undocumented student graduates high school and it would be counterproductive if they couldn’t afford to attend college.

“These students are here largely because their parents brought them here so they didn’t make a choice, but now that they’re here let’s give them every choice that we can,” Martin said.

Johnston estimated that if SB 13-33 passes, 500 students would take advantage of the in-state tuition rates durings its first year of ratification. That number could possibly increase to 750 the year after.

According to Johnston, the total revenue generated for Colorado’s universities and colleges would amount to anywhere between $2 million and $3 million dollars.

Undocumented students would also qualify for the College Opportunity Fund –– a state subsidy given to in-state students who attend college in Colorado.

Martin said CSU–Pueblo ––  designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution with more than 25 percent of the student population of Latino descent –– would see the largest influx of students who would benefit from passage of the bill.

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“It’s not going to be any sort of tidal wave by any means,” Martin said.  “Initially, it’s a relatively small number.”

As to the murky legal area undocumented students are in, proponents of the bill believe it will allow those students who are here anyways to become productive citizens.

“We’re in the education business, we’re not in the judgmental business,” Martin said.

Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.