Undocumented immigrants are generally not eligible for in-state tuition if they attend Colorado state colleges or universities. One state university, however, will permit undocumented immigrants to pay a lower tuition if they meet certain criteria. Starting this semester, undocumented immigrants who qualify will pay $7,157 per year at Metropolitan State University of Denver — $3,000 higher than tuition for in-state students who are citizens or legal residents, but $8,000 lower than the out-of-state rate. To be eligible, undocumented immigrants must have attended high school in Colorado for at least three years and earned a high school diploma or GED. University officials said more than 100 students have qualified so far.
The university’s board of trustees approved the lower rate in June because the legislature failed to pass the tuition bill, according to Stephen Jordan, the university’s president. “I think what our board was saying was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to provide an affordable tuition rate for these students?” Jordan said. But the move angered state conservatives and has led some to threaten to sue the college:
On June 20, university officials were called before a hearing of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to defend their plan.
That same week, Colorado’s attorney general, John W. Suthers, issued a nonbinding legal opinion criticizing the policy.
Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman and presidential candidate who now heads the Rocky Mountain Foundation, a conservative research organization, said his group intended to sue the university in the next few months.
The university’s decision helps make higher education more affordable for undocumented immigrants, but it also underscores the broader problem faced by hundreds of thousands of DREAM Act-eligible undocumented immigrants across the U.S. Only 12 states allow them to pay in-state tuition rates, and four states block undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition
The Obama Administration’s deferred action policy, which went into effect last week, will not help eligible young adults pay in-state tuition either even though it gives them temporary legal status. Moreover, governors in Arizona and Nebraska have vowed to prevent DREAM Act-eligible immigrants from receiving public benefits — like driver’s licenses and in-state tuition — if they qualify for work permits under the new policy.