A bill that would provide lower tuition rates--rates closer to an in-state level, rather than the higher out-of-state level--to Colorado's undocumented immigrant students was rejected by Colorado House Republicans on Wednesday.
The bill was killed on a 6-7 party-line vote by the House Finance committee and comes just two days after the bill narrowly passed the House Education committee on a 7-6 vote. The Denver Post reports that this is the sixth time a bill to lower the costs of college tuition for undocumented immigrants has failed in the state legislature.
Education News Colorado reports that several Republican members of the House Finance committee expressed sympathy for the bill's goals, but in the end couldn't vote for it.
"This is a great loss for Colorado and for so many bright minds,:" the Higher Education Access Alliance said in a press statement. "We are deeply disappointed that the Republicans on the House Finance committee couldn't see through politics to help our students and Colorado's institutions of higher education. ASSET was a win-win for everyone."
In early April, the bill passed in the Colorado Senate on a party-line vote, 20-14, with every Democrat in the Senate in favor of the measure and only Republican opposition.
The ASSET bill (SB-15), or Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow, would provide discounted tuition that is not as affordable as in-state tuition, but not as expensive as out-of-state tuition if the student who is an undocumented immigrant provides proof that they are seeking legal status. The discounted rate would only be available to students that attended at least three or more years of a Colorado high school and graduated or obtained a GED. Within 12 months of graduation or obtaining their GED, the student must then apply and be accepted into one of Colorado's colleges to be eligible for the lower rate.
Colleges would have the right to opt-out of creating the new lower tuition rate if they did not want to participate.
The Associated Press provides this example: if the legislation were to pass, an undocumented immigrant attending University of Colorado at Boulder would pay approximately $10,000 annually, compared to $8,000 annually for an in-state tuition paying student or nearly $30,000 annually for an out of state student.
In an op-ed from January, The Denver Post made a strong case for why the bill should pass stating that most of these students were brought into this country as infants and those that are eligible have already succeeded academically. But they do raise one of the common critiques of the legislation and the larger challenge for undocumented immigrant students:
Critics make a valid point when they say that under current laws, these students won't be able to legally use their education to get a job in the United States. Their hope — our hope — is that Congress will finally take up comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to legal status for these students and other undocumented immigrants who have a lot to offer to this country.
The bill definitely has had its detractors who have said that the lower tuition rate is rewarding illegal behavior. Sen. Nancy Spencer (R-Centennial) echoed these sentiments to CBS4 in no uncertain terms, saying, "The message is that it is okay to commit felonies in the United States."
Colorado is not alone in seeking more affordable tuition for undocumented immigrants attending college -- thirteen other states have already passed legislation that grants in-state tuition rates, however, the legislation remains controversial as shown recently while Texas Gov. Rick Perry was running for the GOP presidential nomination, he faced criticism over his support for Texas policy that grants undocumented immigrants in-state tuition rates.
WATCH the video above on the the failure of SB-15 in the Colorado House [via 9News].
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