A College Lifts a Hurdle for Illegal Immigrants

Dan Frosch, New York Times, August 17, 2012

Monday is the first day of the school year for Metropolitan State University of Denver, a compact, urban campus in the heart of the city’s downtown.

It also signifies the dawn of a controversial new policy for this institution of 24,000. Among the crowd of students who will show up for class next week are dozens of illegal immigrants who, as part of a specially tailored tuition rate, can now qualify for a reduced fee if they live in Colorado.

The new rate, approved by the university’s board of trustees in June, has garnered praise from immigrant rights advocates here who have tried for years to get legislation passed that would allow state colleges to offer discounted tuition to local, illegal immigrant students.

But the policy has also drawn the ire of conservatives who are threatening to sue the university to keep the rate from being put in place and have accused Metro State of openly defying Colorado law.

Stephen Jordan, Metro State’s president, said the board took action after Colorado lawmakers failed to pass a similar tuition proposal this year. {snip}

“I think what our board was saying was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to provide an affordable tuition rate for these students?’ ” he added. “So that they can get a college degree and become meaningful contributors to the economy of Colorado.”

Under the new rate, illegal immigrants will pay $7,157.04 per year at Metro State. That is nearly $3,000 higher than the tuition for legal Colorado students but about $8,000 lower than what out-of-state students pay.

Only those students who attended high school in Colorado for at least three years and received their high school or general equivalency diplomas here are eligible. {snip}

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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.

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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.

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