Metro State considers lower tuition for immigrants

By Rema Rahman

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, June 6 2012 10:44 a.m. MDT

DENVER — Metropolitan State College of Denver is considering a measure to cut the cost of tuition for illegal immigrants by more than half.

The school's finance committee is scheduled to make a recommendation on the proposal Wednesday, college spokeswoman Cathy Lucas said. The board of trustees is expected to take comment on the idea before taking a final vote Thursday.

Under the proposal, Colorado high school graduates who have lived in the state 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.

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 when the finance committee approves next year's budget.

College president Stephen Jordan said the measure is needed because Colorado lawmakers rejected a similar proposal in April to create a third category of tuition rates for illegal immigrants that didn't include the normal state subsidy that in-state students get. The legislative measure had nearly-identical criteria.

Jordan said the college cannot offer students money from the state but Metro State has the authority to create a separate, non-residential rate that does not include state funding.

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."

Jordan said the measure would increase the Hispanic population of the college and would make Metro State eligible to become a Hispanic Serving Institution if that population reaches 25 percent. That would allow Metro State to compete for more federal grants that could be used toward research and infrastructure. Hispanics who are illegal immigrants would not be included in the enrollment count that contributes to the 25 percent population needed to compete for the grants and it's unclear how those grants would benefit that portion of the population.

Jordan believes that in attracting more Hispanics to the college, it creates "an environment in which Hispanics feel welcome."

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.

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