Colorado benefits from the number of out-of-state college graduates who find the state appealing. Whether it's because of the easily accessible mountains and rivers under blue skies or the high-tech jobs, the percent of the state's population with a college degree is the highest or among the highest in the nation.
What Colorado doesn't do as well is graduate its own high school students and send them on to college and to a degree. Those percentages are dismal.
One group that could add to the number of Colorado's own college graduates are recent state high school graduates who, because of their parents' actions, came to the state illegally. They can attend a public college in the state now, but only by paying out-of-state tuition that can be three or four times as much as the in-state amount. That higher cost may make college - at the junior college, four-year and graduate institution levels - impossible.
Some legislators are trying to change that.
A bill in the state Senate would give illegal immigrants who had attended three years of high school in the state, and graduated, the right to pay in-state tuition. Those with a recent GED would qualify, too. All would have to begin college within five years of receiving their high school diploma and, of course, meet the particular institution's entrance requirements.
Federal law requires that the state deliver a kindergarten-through-high school education to every student at no charge. If Colorado is to have the best educated citizenry in the decades ahead, we think this initiative makes good sense. Having to pay what a non-Coloradan pays, while having roots in Colorado and thus a greater likelihood of remaining in the state and putting that college education to good use here, is poor policy.
The challenge, however, is to know how many recent and upcoming high school graduates might take advantage of the lower tuition, an amount that has to be supplemented by state and private support (and what out-of-state students pay) to fully cover costs. Census data is not good enough, yet.
The sooner that number can be determined, the better. Then the impact to the budget can be considered, and how the cost might be covered. It may eventually come from the students themselves, of course. More education generally leads to higher personal earnings and higher taxes.
In the meantime, Colorado, which needs to increase the educational successes of all its residents, is missing an opportunity by not providing in-state tuition to accomplished students who could have arrived as infants and consider Colorado home.