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Illegal Immigrant Tuition Bill Passes Senate, Faces Debate In House

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Colorado State Capitol (credit: CBS)

Colorado State Capitol (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4)- Students who live in Colorado illegally are one step closer to getting a break on tuition rates at state universities.

Currently public universities in Colorado have two tuition levels for in-state and out-of-state students. Senate bill 12-015, passed by the state Senate Friday, creates a third level of tuition. It’s called Colorado ASSET or “standard” tuition and would be available to illegal immigrants.

This is the 6th version of such bill that would create the new tuition bracket for illegal immigrants who make their home in Colorado. This version found enough votes but not without some heated debate on the floor of the Senate at the state Capitol.

“The message is that it is okay to commit felonies in the United States,” said Sen. Nancy Spence, a Republican representing Centennial.

“I’m painfully aware that I serve here in the Senate, not just under the weight of my own expectations, but also under the weight and expectations of an entire community,” said Sen. Angela Giron, the bill’s sponsor and a Democrat representing Pueblo.

Democrats said finding an affordable rate for illegal immigrants earns money for Colorado for the tuition from students who otherwise would not go to school. They believe those students would move on to states with more favorable laws.

“Why on earth would we let Kansas take our kids. Our very and brightest kids regardlesss of where they came from,” said one Democrat lawmaker.

“I want to go to Metro, Metro State, but because of the lack of money I had to go to community college,” said college student Isaias Vasquez. “I’m not asking for money, I’m just asking for the opportunity to pay a lower tuition.”

Republicans argue the time isn’t right for the bill. They said the federal government should address immigration first and pass the Dream Act. In the 20 to 15 vote, not one Republican voted to support the tuition bill.

“We should be talking to our federal government about these students, about the problems a non-secured border have created for Colorado and other states,” said Sen. Steve King, a Republican representing Grand Junction.

There are strict guidelines for a student to qualify for the program.

For students to be eligible for the standard rate a student will have to attend three or more years of high school in Colorado and graduate or obtain a GED. The student will then have to apply and be accepted at one of Colorado’s institutions of higher learning within 12 months after graduating from high school or earning a GED.

Colorado ASSET students will not be eligible for any state or federal financial aid. This means that no Colorado taxpayer dollars will go towards this program. Instead the colleges and universities in our state will see increased revenue from additional students attending our schools.

Institutions of higher education are allowed to opt-out of creating a standard-rate tuition category.

The tuition bill moves on to the state House where Republicans maintain control. The bill’s sponsor believes there are Republicans who will support the bill.

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