Colorado Democrats seek illegal immigrant college tuition
Ryan Summerlin October 14, 2009
DENVER – Colorado Democrats plan to take another run at a bill that would provide reduced tuition to the children of illegal immigrants by creating a new class of tuition that would not require state subsidies.
Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, said the measure, billed as the “Workforce Development and Unsubsidized Tuition Act,” is a compromise that would avoid the pitfalls of the four or five previous failed attempts at passing legislation by creating a new, third tuition rate.
“We’re wasting a lot of potential from these kids, investing significant amounts of money in public education and then we just let kids slip away once they graduate from high school,” said Sandoval, who plans to sponsor the measure in the Senate.
She said children of illegal immigrants are being forced to pay out-of-state tuition because they don’t qualify for the state subsidy given to the children of parents who have paid state taxes for more than a year.
The House sponsor, state Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver, said in a bill summary that the bill “would empower Colorado, undocumented high school graduates who have attended at least three years at an accredited Colorado high school, stayed out of trouble, earned a good grade point average and been active members of their community” an opportunity to attend one of 30 institutions at instate tuition rates without using state scholarship funds.
Miklosi said the act would create educational opportunities for 200 to 500 children of illegal immigrants the first year and thousands more over the next decade who cannot afford a college degree.
Miklosi said the bill would provide $3.3 million to colleges the first year that they wouldn’t otherwise receive.
Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said Democrats are being disingenuous when they claim no state subsidies would be required.
“Schools tell us it costs $16,000 to $20,000 to provide a year’s worth of college to a student. If they’re paying instate rates, they’re still being subsidized by taxpayers,” Brophy said.
Miklosi said he’s working with the University of Colorado and Colorado State University to adjust their enrollment caps “so no documented students can claim a spot is being taken by an undocumented student.”
Last April, the Colorado Senate killed a proposal that would have allowed illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
Five Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat the bill in a 18-16 vote after a three-hour debate.
Senate Bill 170 would have allowed students who are in the country illegally and who have graduated from Colorado high schools to pay in-state tuition plus the cost of a state stipend that other Colorado students receive.
Backers said these students shouldn’t be punished for the laws their parents broke in coming to the United States. Opponents argued it would have violated a federal law that bars states from offering illegal immigrants any benefit that’s not given to citizens from other states.
Lawmakers then voted to change the bill to say it would take effect only if the federal law is changed through the DREAM Act pending in Congress, but that amended version was defeated.