By Keith Coffman

DENVER, June 19 (Reuters) - A large Colorado college had no authority to offer illegal immigrants a discount on tuition under a plan the school unveiled earlier this month, the state attorney general said on Tuesday.

The opinion from Republican Attorney General John Suthers is non-binding, and Metropolitan State College of Denver disputes his analysis. But it could lead to renewed debate about the place of undocumented immigrants at the state's post-secondary institutions.

Suthers said Metro State circumvented the Colorado General Assembly by approving the discount.

The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives earlier this year killed a bill that would have created a tuition rate for undocumented immigrants similar to what Metro State has put forth.

"Reasonable people of good intentions and good faith can disagree about the wisdom of granting discounted tuition to undocumented students," Suthers wrote in his opinion.

"But that decision is one that under existing law must be made by the legislature, not individual institutions of higher learning," he added.

The Obama administration last week shook up the national debate over immigration with the announcement of a rule change that would extend eligibility to stay in the country to illegal immigrants up to age 30 who came to the United States as children and do not pose a risk to national security. They would also be able to apply for work permits.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule any day on Arizona's tough immigration law, which among its provisions requires police to check the immigration status of anyone detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.

Metro State's plan is meant for illegal immigrants who have lived in the state for three years, graduated from high school, and not committed any crimes while in the United States.

The tuition of $3,358 per semester would be higher than for in-state students, but less than for out-of-state students. It is slated to be instituted in the fall.

By comparison, the out-of-state tuition rate at the school is over $7,900.

Suthers issued the non-binding opinion at the request of the state's multi-campus community college system, which may consider a similar rate structure.

Metro State's board of trustees said in a statement on Tuesday that it was never its intent to "disregard Colorado's law or its legislature," and that they do not believe they did.

"The structure of nonresident tuition rates by higher education institutions are not required to be authorized by the state legislature  and the tuition rates contained no state subsidy," the trustees said.

But Suthers disagreed, and took a swipe at the college for not consulting his office before approving the plan. The school has an enrollment of about 24,000 students.

"Discounted tuition is a 'public benefit,' which under the current state law may only be provided to individuals who prove their lawful presence in the United States," Suthers wrote.

Several states including California and Texas have passed laws that allow some illegal immigrants to pay the same tuition rates as legal residents from within those states. (Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Also on HuffPost:

Check out our slideshow of DREAMers:
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  • Fermin Vasquez

    Fermin Vasquez serves as the statewide Communications Coordinator for Californians for Justice. One of Los Angeles' youngest emerging Latino leaders, Fermin was a Front Line Leaders Academy Fellow with the People for the American Way Foundation, based in Washington D.C. In 2010, Fermin became the first one in his family to graduate from college, and received his degree in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles. He was also a founding member and President of Students United to Reach Goals in Education (S.U.R.G.E.), a support and advocacy organization for those that may not have come here with the right papers, but have been raised with the right values. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fermin-vasquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Laura E. Enriquez

    Laura E. Enriquez is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles where she does research on the experiences of undocumented young adults. She is a dedicated scholar-activist and specializes in immigration, race/ethnicity, and gender. She has been mentoring, teaching, and organizing with undocumented young adults for the past five years. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-e-enriquez" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Fernando Romero

    Fernando Romero is the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California; he is also a co-founding member of <a href="http://dreamersadrift.com/" target="_hplink">Dreamers Adrift</a>, a new media project for undocumented students, by undocumented students. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fernando-romero" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Alma Castrejon

    Alma Castrejon was born in Mexico City and came to the United States at the age of seven. In 2008, she graduated from UC Riverside with B.A. degrees in Political Science - International Relations and Chicano Studies. While at UCR she founded Providing Opportunities, Dreams and Education in Riverside (PODER), a support group for undocumented students on campus. In 2011, Alma received her Master of Arts degree in Education at CSU Long Beach. She has been a member of Dream Team Los Angeles (DTLA), a community and student group that advocates for undocumented student rights and immigrant rights, since 2009; she is also an active member of Graduates Reaching a Dream Deferred (GRADD), a group of undocumented graduate students that addresses the needs of immigrant students interested in pursuing graduate education. Alma will be applying to law school in the fall of 2012. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alma-castrejon" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Juan Escalante

    Juan Escalante is an undocumented student and recent graduate from Florida State University. He is a core-member of <a href="http://www.dreamactivist.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivist.org</a> and the founder of <a href="http://dreamactivistfl.org/" target="_hplink">DreamActivistFL.org</a>; both are online organizations that provide resources for undocumented students across the country. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juan-escalante" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Nancy Meza

    Nancy Meza is a human being from Jalisco, Mexico. She was brought to the U.S. by her responsible and courageous mother at the age of two and proudly grew up in East Los Angeles California. She is a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. After High School she attended East Los Angeles Community College and transferred to UCLA where she became actively involved in organizing around undocumented and immigrant rights issues with IDEAS at UCLA and Dream Team Los Angeles. She graduated with a degree in Chicana/o Studies and a Labor and Work Place Studies minor in 2010. She is currently an intern at the Dream Resource Center; a project out of the UCLA Labor Center and continues to organize with Dream Team Los Angeles where she is a member of the media and communications team. She is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and her posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-meza" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Erick Huerta

    Erick Huerta is majoring in journalism at East Los Angeles College. As a member of Dream Team Los Angeles, he is one of the coordinators handling the group's communications and social media endeavors. He has lived in the U.S. for the past 20 years and has been chronicling his personal experiences as an undocumented resident for the last eight years on his personal <a href="www.justarandomhero.blogspot.com" target="_hplink">blog</a>. He's also a community reporter for the community of Boyle Heights and an avid cyclist. He can be recognized by his trademark bigotes. He is a contributor to the HuffPost LatinoVoices <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erick-huerta" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Jonathan Perez

    Jonathan Perez is a queer undocumented political exile from Colombia, and a Co-Founder of the Immigrant Youth Coalition in Southern California. On why he contributes to the series, he writes, "It is shocking to most, but I don't actually advocate for the DREAM Act. I organize for the rights of undocumented immigrants. I believe that in order to have meaningful changes we must first address the root causes. In order to change our realities we have to build a global movement and a global revolution. I write for the Huffington Post <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em> because it gives me the opportunity to give a different perspective to what the issues of undocumented people are." You can read his posts <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-perez" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Mayra Hidalgo Salazar

    Originally from Naranjo, Alajuela, Costa Rica, Mayra immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 6-months-old. She is undocumented and has dedicated her life to the immigrant movement in Florida. She lives in Lakeland, Florida where she is an organizer for Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), a grassroots organization founded by undocumented immigrant youth in Florida. She also serves on the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and United We DREAM (UWD) Board of Directors. She helped start an immigration legal clinic that offers free legal immigration consultation to low-income immigrants in her community and serves as the Clinic Coordinator. She also serves as the Migrant Scholar Advocate for Scaffold the Scholar, a professional development initiative for former farm-worker women working in early childhood education and is a member of the Polk County School Board Diversity Council. She was a project manager for the Trail of Dreams campaign in 2010, a 1,500 walk from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C., demanding that President Obama stop the deportation of undocumented students. Currently a undergraduate college student, she aspires to eventually earn a law degree specializing in immigration law so she can continue to serve the community that taught her to persevere against all odds.

  • Jesus Cortez

    Jesus Cortez is an undocumented graduate student at the California State University, Long Beach College of Education. He grew up in Anaheim, California and is a member of the Orange County Dream Team. He is a contributor to the <em>DREAMers Blog Series</em>, and his posts can be read <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesus-cortez" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Angy Rivera

    Angy Rivera is a Colombian-born, New York-raised undocumented immigrant who started the first undocumented youth advice column, Ask Angy, while a core member at the New York State Youth Leadership Council. She also blogs for DreamActivist.org.