Metro State is proceeding with the implementation of the Colorado High School/GED Non-resident Tuition Rate—a new category of non-resident tuition for the state’s undocumented students approved by the Board of Trustees on June 7.
“We are proceeding with the implementation based on the trustees’ policy decision,” Metro State President Stephen Jordan says about the non-resident tuition rate. “Although I believe we’re operating on secure legal ground, we are also looking into the legal questions raised by the Attorney General’s opinion and we’ll assess any potential implications for implementation and advise the board.”
Just over a week after the BOT approved the rate, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers issued an opinion saying that Metro State’s non-resident rate constitutes “a public benefit,” which Colorado law states can only go to people who can prove their lawful presence in the country.
On June 19, Jordan and Metro State Trustee Melody Harris testified before an informational hearing called by the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee to address the institution’s decision to offer this rate.
To further study the issue, Metro State has secured the services of the firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP. The attorneys working on this are David Fine and David Skaggs. Fine is the former city attorney under Gov. John Hickenlooper, when he served as Denver’s mayor, and Skaggs is a former U.S. congressman from Colorado and the past executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
This non-resident rate is designed for students who live in Colorado, have attended a Colorado high school, and are not able to document the legal status that would make them eligible for resident tuition rates under current Colorado and federal law. This non-resident tuition rate contains no state subsidy. Here’s how the rates compare for 15 credit hours per academic year (two semesters):
- Colorado resident tuition = $4,304.40
- Non-resident tuition = $15,985.20
- Colorado High School/GED rate = $7,157.04
In the wake of Metro State’s non-resident tuition announcement, the institution has received a flurry of response about the decision.
“We are hearing from prospective and current students who would be affected by the rate as well as from the media and people in the community,” says Cathy Lucas, associate to the president for marketing and communications. “Many of the responses we’ve had have been extremely positive.”
Comments on Facebook have ranged from “Don't back down! You are a shining beacon of light and an example for all other institutes of higher education” to questions about why Metro State would offer a special rate to students not living in the United States legally.
After receiving upwards of 20 calls from undocumented students interested in the new tuition rate, Sen. Mike Johnston’s office decided to hold a recruitment event with high school counselors at his headquarters on June 25, says Leslie Colwell, his legislative director. Johnston, former principal of Mapleton High School, where many undocumented students attend, is a prime sponsor of the ASSET bill.
And, at the invitation of Colorado ASSET, the statewide initiative to pass a bill that would provide undocumented Colorado students with an in-state tuition rate, Jordan will speak on June 26.
“We’ve also heard from many faculty and staff members supporting this move,” Lucas says. “Having worked with students from diverse backgrounds, Metro State professors and staff understand on a profound level the personal and economic difference a Metro State education makes in people’s lives.”
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