Apr 162012
Authors: Colleen Canty

Tuition rates may soon be decreasing for illegal immigrants in Colorado.

A bill recently passed by the state Senate would lower the amount of tuition payed by illegal immigrants to attend college and is now being considered by the House.

The session will come to a close mid-May and, if passed by the House, Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto or sign it into law. If successful, the bill will be in full effect for Fall 2012 enrollment.

With Senate Bill 15’s potential successful legislation, undocumented students would be paying neither in-state nor out-of-state tuition, but a third, median rate. Students who qualify for, and decide to take advantage of, this new rate would be unable to receive financial aid, whether it is state or federally administered.

“Lowering tuition while still being able to give these students financial aid would be great, but the state just isn’t in a position, financially or politically, to do that now,” said Mary Ontiveros, vice president for diversity at Colorado State University. “This bill moves everything in the right direction, but is it the right bill? Probably not.”

According to Ontiveros, while a large number of students at CSU would be eligible for the bill, she said she would anticipate the number to actually take advantage of it to be small. Forfeiting financial aid for lower tuition may not be worth it.

Although she views this particular component of the bill as a pitfall, Ontiveros is largely in favor of its passing. While it’s not the perfect piece of legislation, in her opinion, the bill represents the hope she and others in her office have been waiting for.

“We know these are good students and we want to give them the opportunity to continue their education. This (the passage of the bill) could potentially have a significant impact on them,” she said.

Opposition to the new legislation identifies such a bill as only furthering an already significant problem facing the state – that of illegal immigrants skipping the process of legal citizenship and capitalizing on opportunities generally available exclusively to U.S. Citizens.

Sen. Nancy Spencer (R-Centennial) told CBS4 the bill transmits “the message is that it is okay to commit felonies in the United States.”

The bill introduces a gray area of political, financial and social morals that has many people, including current CSU students, divided on the issue. For some, there’s no easy vote to be cast one way or the other.

“Everyone is entitled to an education. I think we should make it as accessible as possible,” said Bethany Siekmeier, a junior liberal arts major and Spanish minor hoping to work with Latino immigrants in the non-profit sector after graduation.

“But at the same time, if you’re not a citizen of the state, you shouldn’t receive discounted tuition, and if you are (a citizen), you should. Everyone should be evaluated on the same standard.”

Collegian reporter Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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