Metro State approves lower tuition for undocumented students

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DENVER -- The Metro State College of Denver Board of Trustees voted Thursday to lower tuition for undocumented students who graduated from Colorado high schools.

The board's 7-1 vote makes Metro the first higher education institution in the state to act on its own to create a new category of tuition for qualifying undocumented students after legislation to do just that was blocked by Republicans at the Capitol again earlier this year.

"We have always prided ourselves on being an inclusive institution," said Metro State's President, Dr. Stephen Jordan. "We serve more students of color than any institution in the state of Colorado."

The move cuts what undocumented students currently pay by more than 50 percent. Undocumented students will pay $6,716.60/year. That’s slightly more than in-state tuition at $5,792.40/year, but considerably less than out-of-state tuition at $15,985.20/year.

That’s a concern for a Republican State representative who says Metro may be breaking federal law offering immigrants lower tuition than those out of state.

“My heart goes out to undocumented students. They don’t want to be where they’re at. But this is a federal law we’re complying with,” says Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen.

Legislative analysts estimated earlier this year that the bill dubbed “Colorado ASSET” would impact about 500 illegal immigrants across Colorado.

A majority of those live in Denver and would likely consider Metro State.

Hector, an undocumented student who addressed the board prior to the vote, has been taking courses at Metro State's south campus in the Denver Tech Center because it's cheaper, and now plans to accelerate his studies at the main campus.

"I've been here for six semesters but I have only accomplished to take 10 classes due to the high rate of tuition," Hector said. "So, after six semesters, I'm still a freshman. Students who started when I did are probably going to get their Bachelor's degree next year.

"This means I can move to the main campus and now get a degree faster to actually accomplish my dreams. And I hope that by the time I graduate and get my degree the government will pass the DREAM Act or some legislation similar to that that allows me to have a path to citizenship -- that way I don't have to give up on the dreams I had."

Republicans at the Capitol widely opposed the legislation, arguing that it would incentivize more illegal immigrants to come to Colorado and pointing out that, without a path to citizenship at the federal level, there’s no way for these students to work legally once they graduate from college.

"I for one don't believe that we have to wait for the legislature to act," said Trustee Terrance Carroll, a former Speaker of the House, during Thursday's meeting.

"Sometimes our political leaders are behind the times and it's important for us to lead the way."

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