News & Media

Right a wrong: Support Colorado ASSET

February 12, 2011  |  Denver Catholic Register  |  Link to article

By Jennifer Kraska

Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic ConferenceImmigration is a tricky issue no matter how you look at it. It invokes very strong emotions in people like very few issues do. But, as we continue to look for solutions to rebound our economy and create new jobs we cannot ignore the positive role in-state tuition for undocumented students can play.

Colorado’s economy was once an agrarian economy but over the years we have moved to becoming a high-tech hub. We are able to recruit these high-tech and high-growth industries into our state because we have one of the most educated populaces in the country. The problem is we imported most of these educated people from other states. We haven’t done a great job at educating all of the best and the brightest amongst us.

One group that is often overlooked is the undocumented students who would like to receive a higher education but who cannot afford the astronomical out-of-state tuition rates. These students have been educated in our K-12 system, their families have paid taxes in our state, yet they often end up working in jobs where their potential is unrealized.

This current system immorally punishes students for decisions they didn’t make and often didn’t have a choice in making. Many times a student’s undocumented status is a result of a decision their parents made to come to this country when the children were too young to say no or stay behind. These students frequently know no “home” besides the United States.

Colorado ASSET (Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow) is a bill that was  introduced in the Colorado Senate earlier this month that will help break this cycle of unfair education and the poverty that often ensues. The bill was introduced by Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver and Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver. The bill will be similar to a bill introduced in 2009, which the Colorado Catholic Conference (the state level, public policy arm of the Church) supported. We enthusiastically support Colorado ASSET and have been sitting on the steering committee of HEAA (Higher Education Access Alliance), which is a coalition that was brought together to fix this injustice to undocumented students.

Colorado ASSET won’t cost taxpayers a dime and the fiscal note with the bill in 2009 even showed additional revenue to Colorado colleges and universities from the bill. We expect the 2011 bill will bring the same benefit and this doesn’t even take into account the decrease in public support that will occur when more people receive a higher education. Studies have shown that a person who doesn’t graduate from high school is 25 percent more likely to need public assistance such as food stamps or welfare than a person who has some college level education.

I am asking for your help in supporting Colorado ASSET. Please take the time to contact your legislators and urge them to support Colorado ASSET—and join with the Colorado Catholic Conference in supporting a just and humane piece of legislation that ends a wrong and unjust system.

Jenny Kraska is the executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, the state-level public policy and lobbying arm of the Archdiocese of Denver, the Diocese of Pueblo and the Diocese of Colorado Springs.