DENVER – Four of Colorado’s Democratic state legislators on Wednesday presented a bill to allow undocumented students who meet certain criteria to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.
The bill, SB 126, was presented by state Sens. Mike Johnston (Denver) and Angela Giron (Pueblo) and Reps. Joe Miklosi and Angela Williams, both of Denver.
“This is an issue I saw every day when I was a high school teacher and, later, principal,” Johnston said in a press conference at the state capitol, lamenting the loss of potential teachers, doctors and lawyers.
Johnston said that five of the six states bordering Colorado already have similar laws on the books, including Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, which the legislator characterized as “not exactly liberal bastions.”
Meanwhile, two years ago Miklosi presented a similar bill that was rejected in the state Senate.
Miklosi said that SB 126 will not foster illegal immigration, as its opponents claim, nor will it create additional expenses for the state. In fact, he said, “Colorado does not have to invest a single cent.”
Johnston emphasized that same point, confirming that undocumented students would not be eligible for state education subsidies.
The bill requires students to be accepted at a university within 12 months of having completed high school and that they sign a sworn statement indicating that they lack valid immigration documents but that they have begun, or soon will begin, procedures to acquire those papers.
The bill also stipulates that the undocumented student cannot be counted for purposes of determining state funding to universities not can he or she receive financial aid that involves public funds.
In that way, Johnston said, the bill avoids the perception that an undocumented student could deprive another student of opportunities or resources.
The Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow, or ASSET, initiative was managed by the Higher Education Access Alliance, which is made up of the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition and the Latin American Educational Foundation, among other organizations.
“Colorado can attract and be a leader in high growth industries only if we have a well-trained workforce to meet our full economic potential,” said HEAA Campaign Manager Elise Keaton in a communique.
“Reliant for decades on imported human capital from other states, Colorado has one of the most highly educated workforces, yet the state fails to promote high-achieving undocumented students who are ready to enter that workforce,” Keaton said. “As a result, high dropout rates and low college access rates among certain student populations exist statewide.” EFE