Metropolitan State University of Denver says it has decided to move forward with its controversial vote granting undocumented students a new tuition rate, to go into effect this fall.
The college's board of trustees voted 7-1 in June to lower the out-of-state $7,992 per semester tuition rate to $3,358.30 per semester for undocumented, Colorado-educated students.
"The advice we've received says that this is absolutely the correct decision," Metro trustee Terrance Carroll told the Denver Post. "We're not looking for a fight, but we are certainly willing and able to defend our decision."
Issuing a legal opinion after the vote to grant the special tuition rate to undocumented students, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said that the decision is "not supported by governing law" since the non-resident rate constitutes a public benefit.
Officials have said that 72 new and 24 returning students have registered for classes under the new rate.
In order to qualify, an undocumented student has to meet the following criteria in addition to the admissions requirements, listed in a news release on Metro State's website:
- Attended a Colorado high school for at least three years.
- Graduated from a Colorado high school or received a general equivalency diploma (GED) in this state.
- Provide a statement that they are in good legal standing, other than their undocumented or unclassified status, and are seeking or intend to seek lawful status when eligible.
The vote came just months after Colorado's Legislature failed to pass a bill for the sixth time that would have lowered tuition for undocumented immigrants, the ASSET bill. The bill that would have created a new category of tuition statewide for undocumented immigrants who met essentially the same criteria outlined by Metro State University but also would have required that students apply and be admitted to an in-state school of higher education within one year of graduating. Met with a similar fate as Colorado's civil unions bill, the ASSET bill died on a party-line vote in committee.
In 2008, Colorado banned undocumented students from qualifying for in-state tuition or any kind of state financial aid.
However The Denver Post reported in June that Suthers called the ASSET approach "a successful workaround" to a 1996 federal law that prohibits states from giving illegal immigrants any benefit that that is not provided to U.S. citizens.
By basing the undocumented immigrant students' lower tuition rate on high school attendance and graduation, and not on their state residency, states have been able to claim that they do not violate the law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“We are proceeding with the implementation based on the trustees’ policy decision,” Metro State President Stephen Jordan says about the non-resident tuition rate. “Although I believe we’re operating on secure legal ground, we are also looking into the legal questions raised by the Attorney General’s opinion and we’ll assess any potential implications for implementation and advise the board.”