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Revised tuition equity for undocumented students bill clears first hurdle

January 26, 2012  |  FOX Denver  |  Link to article

DENVER -- A proposal to create a new, lower category of college tuition for undocumented students who qualify took its first step forward at the Capitol Thursday.

Senate Bill 15, dubbed "Colorado ASSET" by its sponsors, was approved by the Senate Education Committee on a 4-3 party-line vote after an emotional and, at times, contentious hearing.

Last year, the Senate, where Democrats hold a 20-15 seat advantage, passed a similar bill that sought to offer undocumented students unsubsidized in-state tuition; it was later killed in the GOP-controlled House

This year's proposal, which creates a new, sliding tuition rate for undocumented students and allows colleges and universities to opt out of offering it, appears to have a real shot at passing not just the Senate but the House as well, where some key Republicans are signaling their support.

But the Republican lawmakers voting on the bill Thursday still argued strongly against something that they believe will only incentivize more illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, the bill's sponsors, as in year's past, put forth a young witness who gave emotional testimony, an eighth grader named Alejandra whose brother is undocumented.

"He is only 11 years old, and after being one of two students to pass an advance placement test to get a private scholarship to go to a better school, he was told he had to have a Social Security number to receive the scholarship.

"I saw a lot of hope go out of him that day," Alejandra continued, fighting back tears. "It isn't fair he has to struggle to succeed so much than I have to just because I have a Social Security number.

"Please help some of the best and brightest students in Colorado who are losing hope."

The bill's sponsors coupled the emotional weight of such compelling testimony with an economic argument that the legislation will help colleges bring in millions in additional tuition and educate students who will be able to contribute more, as a result, to Colorado's economy -- and without costing taxpayers any money.

"These kids are going to pay the full sticker price, and they're going to pay the COF (Colorado Opportunity Fund subsidy) above it," said Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, a co-sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.

 

"No one is going to cut in front of line of a kid from Colorado."