DENVER | Metropolitan State College of Denver officials are unanimously recommending a measure to cut tuition for illegal immigrants living in Colorado by more than half.
A finance committee and members of the board of trustees met Wednesday to discuss the college’s upcoming budget for the next school year. The measure affecting illegal immigrants was a key component. The budget goes before the full board Thursday.
Under the proposal, students who have attended Colorado high schools for at least three years would be eligible to pay a rate higher than in-state tuition but significantly less than the out-of-state rate illegal immigrants currently pay. They must also provide proof they are seeking legal status. The measure would take effect in the fall and 300 students would be expected to take advantage of it in the first year.
College president Stephen Jordan was praised by the officials for proposing the measure because it aims to give more students a chance at an affordable education.
Students taking 12 credits would pay $3,358.30 per semester, compared with the $7,992.60 out-of-state charge they would face.
In-state tuition is expected to increase to $2,152.20 when the finance committee approves next year’s budget.
“This is absolutely remarkable,” Deputy Provost Luis Torres told Jordan at the meeting. In response to criticism by some public comments on the measure Luis insisted it is just the “price you have to pay for leadership.”
Public comments sent to the president, which were described as “overwhelmingly positive,” will be made available at the full board meeting.
Jordan presented the measure before the vice president of finance Natalie Lutes, emphasizing how it aims to “create the kind of positive environment that supports the Hispanic community.”
Jordan hopes the tuition cut will draw more Hispanics to the college. If the college’s Hispanic population reaches 25 percent, it would become a Hispanic Serving Institution, making it eligible to compete for federal grants used for research and infrastructure. Hispanics who are illegal immigrants would not be included in the enrollment count that contributes to the population needed to compete for the grants and it’s unclear how those grants would benefit that portion of the population.
Jordan said the measure is necessary after Colorado lawmakers rejected a similar proposal in April that would have allowed illegal immigrants to be eligible for in-state tuition rates. Jordan said Metro State College has the authority to create a third category of tuition rates for illegal immigrants that don’t include the normal state subsidy that in-state students get. The legislative measure had nearly-identical criteria.
Jordan said the measure is essential to providing these students an affordable education for a chance to enter the workforce if and when immigration laws ever allow them to work legally in the U.S.
“There’s a dramatic shortfall of trained individuals that are going to be available for our workforce,” Jordan said, adding the measure helps to “prepare every potential great mind to be part of that workforce.”
No one in the meeting was opposed to the measure, or to other budget proposals, which included slight increases to in-state and out-of-state tuition and a $20 increase for international students applying for the graduate program.
Twelve states have laws allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California and Texas were the first states to enact legislation in 2001, followed by New York and Utah in 2002.