GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A group of Latino students on Monday tried but were unable to convince the trustees of Colorado Mountain College to support the controversial ASSET bill now before the Colorado Legislature.
The students did come away with indications that the trustees were sympathetic to their request.
Members of AJUA (Association of Youth United in Action), who said they are undocumented students who have lived in the Roaring Valley for most or all of their lives, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
They asked the trustees to give the college's endorsement of the ASSET (Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow) bill, which would make undocumented students eligible for in-state resident tuition rates.
Board president Glenn Davis said the item must be formally considered at a future meeting.
"I really appreciate you all coming in today," said Trustee Bob Taylor. "We feel a little frustrated because we can't act more quickly."
He noted that the college is revising its strategic planning process. Part of that revision will be to place more emphasis on recruiting and training Latino students.
Still, the students pressed their case.
"Sometimes it's really difficult to see a better future," said Anahi Araiza, 18, of Basalt.
She explained that students want to become productive members of society and the local economy, but the cost of education can be an insurmountable barrier to their goals.
Other schools have come out in favor of the bill, she said, and CMC should do the same.
Junior A. Ortega, 20, of Rifle, said he tried to attend CMC but had to leave the area for work, to help support his family.
Now that he is back in the valley, he told the trustees, he has worked as a councilor for the CMC First Ascent Youth Leadership program and hopes to continue his studies.
If the ASSET legislation does not pass, he asked if the trustees would agree to consider creating a special tuition for undocumented students who have gone through the local schools and graduated.
"The answer is yes," said Trustee Ken Brenner, "we certainly will talk with you."
After the meeting Ortega noted, "They did say that it might make it to the next agenda, but we might not have until the next meeting." Currently, the next regular trustee meeting is scheduled for March 11.
Ortega noted that the bill is moving quickly through the legislative process, and they hope to have CMC's endorsement before it goes up for a final vote.
The bill failed to win legislative approval over the past two years, but has been revived for the 2013 session. On Jan. 24 the bill passed out of the state Senate Education Committee by a vote of 6-3.
Araiza said the Latino community in the six-county college district is watching this debate closely.
"If they knew CMC supported them, they would want to go there," she said.