Colorado has joined thirteen other states in allowing undocumented immigrant students to attend college at an in-state tuition rate. Governor John Hickenlooper hailed the new law as a victory that would grant illegal students with a “path forward”.
Gov. Hickenlooper signed the ASSET bill into law on Monday, standing before a crowd of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Student Success Center.
The new legislation will allow immigrants who graduate from state high schools to attend Colorado colleges at the in-state tuition rate that locals pay. Prior to the bill’s passage, undocumented immigrant students were prohibited from receiving post secondary education benefits under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
The law restricts in-state tuition benefits for an estimated 50,000 – 65,000 unauthorized immigrant students each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On average, the out-of-state tuition rate is three times higher than the in-state rate. About 1,500 undocumented high school students who graduate each year in Colorado will now be able to pursue higher education at a much lower cost.
Former lawmaker Val Vigil introduced the Colorado bill after just a few states had passed their versions in 2003. But some lawmakers continued to push for the bill’s passage until all Democratic lawmakers unanimously supported the bill and three Republicans joined them.
With some arguing that the bill would provide students with false hope because they would still struggle to find a job post-graduation due to their illegal immigration status and they would still be weighed down with college debt. Gov. Hickenlooper, surrounded by undocumented students who cheered for their new opportunities, was unable to hold back his excitement in the bill’s passing.
“Every kid matters,” he said in a speech following the ratification. “We need every child that we can get, to be as educated as they are capable”.