06/15/2012 08:50 am ET Updated Jun 15, 2012

Attorney General John Suthers Announces Review Of Metro State's Tuition Cut For Undocumented Immigrants

The Colorado Attorney General's Office says it is reviewing the legal issues surrounding the cut tuition rate for undocumented students set by the Metropolitan State College of Denver last week.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Attorney General John Suthers said that many state colleges and universities were interested in the review, but that he would not disclose who specifically prompted it because of attorney-client privilege.

The college's board of trustees voted 7-1 last week to lower the out-of-state $7,992 per semester tuition rate to an unsubsidized $3,578.50 per 15 credits per semester for undocumented, Colorado-educated students. President Stephen Jordan called the discounted tuition rate “truly unsubsidized” because there's also a $650.60 capital construction fee for use of the state buildings.

In order to qualify, an undocumented student has to meet the following criteria in addition to the admissions requirements, listed in a press 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.

In-state students currently pay a tuition of $2,152 per semester, but out-of-state students were quick to express anger for the cut on the college's Twitter and Facebook page after the vote was cast, though most of those comments appear to have been removed as of Thursday.

The vote comes just months after Colorado's Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have lowered tuition for undocumented immigrants for the sixth time, 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 College but also would have required that students apply and be admitted to an in-state school of higher education within one year of graduating. Similar to the civil unions bill earlier, the 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 in a Denver Post article Thursday 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.