DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper declined to say if he would sign a bill on one of his party’s major priorities, giving in-state tuition to students in the country illegally.
Senate Bill 15 is awaiting a final vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where sponsors are confident it will pass. Its prospects are much murkier in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“I try not to predict what I’m going to sign and what I’m not going to sign,” Hickenlooper said Thursday at a meeting of Colorado newspaper editors.
The bill would grant in-state tuition – regardless of immigration status – to students who attended a Colorado high school for at least three years and enroll in college within a year of high school graduation.
Students also have to sign an affidavit confirming that they either have applied for legal status or will do so as soon as they are eligible.
Illegal immigrant students would not be eligible for the $1,860 yearly stipend Colorado gives to full-time college students.
Hickenlooper said the denial of the stipend could help win over some opponents.
But he doesn’t think it would solve all the problems for kids who crossed the border with their families when they were young.
“Even if that bill passes, they’re going to get a reduction in their (cost of) education, but if they finish their education, they can’t come out and legally get a job in Colorado or anywhere in the United States,” Hickenlooper said.
He hopes Congress can begin to talk about a national immigration solution this year and implement one next year, after the election.
“I remain hopeful that we can find some different ways to talk about the issue in a more global sense,” he said.
Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, is a sponsor of SB 15, and she said she’s confident of Hickenlooper’s backing.
“My understanding is if it got to him, he would sign it. He wouldn’t stand in our way,” Giron said.
She said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, a former president of Colorado State University-Pueblo, has been “highly supportive.”
“Certainly, I think someone from higher ed understands the need to have an educated workforce for jobs,” Giron said.
The bill could come up for a final Senate vote early next week.