Tuition break for immigrants gets initial approval
March 5, 2009
DENVER ” Undocumented immigrants are closer to receiving the benefit of in-state tuition, after the proposal to make it happen was approved Thursday by a state Senate committee.
Lawmakers and nearly two dozen Colorado residents discussed the measure (Senate Bill 170) for almost five hours before approving it 5-3 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting no. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Chris Romer, now goes to a vote with the full House.
“For me, this is a moral issue, that we should not shackle the future of children because of the sins of their fathers,” said Senate President Peter Groff.
One of the Republicans who opposed the bill, Sen. Keith King, said it violates federal regulations barring undocumented immigrants from benefits U.S. citizens can’t receive. In other words, according to federal law, if an undocumented immigrant gets in-state tuition, so should any U.S. citizen outside of Colorado.
Similar measures passed in other states, including California, have been met with legal challenges.
This is the fourth time Colorado has tried to give the lower-cost in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, but supporters say they have a better chance of passing it this time because they have the support of the business community.
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Romer has tweaked the bill to gain support from other lawmakers, adding a requirement that students sign an affidavit saying they are seeking legal status and eliminating a state subsidy of up to $2,700 that other students receive.
Depending on the school, in-state tuition in Colorado could cost about $2,340, as opposed to $7,040 for out-of-state students.
To qualify, students must have been in a Colorado high school for three years and sign up for college within five years of graduation or of getting a General Equivalency Diploma.