Fort Lewis College trustees back immigrant tuition measure

Join 28 state colleges in supporting bill

DENVER – Fort Lewis College’s Board of Trustees voted Friday to support a bill that would give discounted tuition to children who immigrated illegally to the United States.

Currently, college students who can’t prove their U.S. citizenship have to pay out-of-state tuition at Colorado’s public colleges.

Senate Bill 15 would allow state colleges to offer in-state tuition rates to these students.

Students who are not legal residents would have to attend a Colorado high school for three years, graduate and enroll in college within a year of graduation to qualify for the tuition discount.

However, they would not receive the approximately $1,800 subsidy the state gives every college student.

FLC trustees voted to endorse the bill because it lets each college opt out, and FLC leaders would have ample opportunity to study the issue in-depth if the bill passes, said Trustee Heidi Baskfield.

“There was definitely discussion about wanting to make sure we have the best-educated workforce possible,” Baskfield said.

The bill faces a tough road. Sponsors are confident it can pass in the Senate, but a nearly identical bill failed last year in a House committee.

SB 15 has been waiting on the Senate calendar for several weeks.

Backers want to secure the support of every college governing board in the state before they send it to the House.

Friday’s vote made FLC the 25th out of 28 college boards to back SB 15, said Lynea Hansen, spokeswoman for the Higher Education Access Alliance, which supports SB 15.

Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, opposed the bill last year and plans to vote against it this year.

“I really believe this is an issue the federal government has to take up,” Roberts said. “These kids would go to college, but they come out and they still can’t get a job. I don’t think that’s the right result, and I don’t think that’s the right goal.”

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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