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CMC favors immigrant tuition break

The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees on Friday endorsed pending state legislation that would slash tuition for many children of undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants are people from foreign countries who’ve come into the United States without passing through customs and who lack proper visas or work cards.

The legislation, which will be sponsored by State Rep. Val Vigil, D-Thornton, counters a 1996 federal law that requires children of undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state college tuition regardless of their residency.



“I modeled the bill after one in Texas, which should fulfill our needs,” Vigil said.

For students attending Colorado Mountain College, which covers six counties in Western Colorado, the tuition savings are significant. Students who reside in-state pay $69 per credit hour, compared to $220 for out-of-state students. That translates to $2,170 per year in instate tuition for full-time students carrying 15 credit hours, versus $6,600 for out-of-state students.



“This will open the doors for those students, not just a little bit, but a lot,” said State Rep. Fran Coleman, D-Denver, the bill’s co-sponsor. “Most of the people we are talking about already come from hardship. They are trying to give their kids an education.”

Vigil said his bill will have at least two primary components. The first will require these students to complete at least three years of high school in Colorado. It will also require them to sign an affidavit when they enroll in college that says they will apply for permanent residency.

Coleman stressed the legislation is not yet drafted, but it might also allow districts such as Colorado Mountain College to offer even less costly in-district tuition to children of undocumented immigrants if they meet residency requirements.

Colorado Mountain College’s in-district tuition is $41 per credit hour, which translates to $1,270 per year for a full-time student taking 15 hours.

Coleman said other states have passed legislation similar to Texas, including California, New York and Utah.

Dr. Bob Spuhler, interim president at Colorado Mountain College, has researched the Texas law and said it’s aimed only at high school students.

“We’re not talking about undocumented workers,” Spuhler said.

Colorado Mountain College Trustee Jeanne Sheriff, of Glenwood Springs, voted for the resolution to support the legislation.

She said states are required to provide education for children from kindergarten through 12th grade regardless of immigration status, “but when they reach college they sort of reach a dead end.”

The Colorado Mountain College district covers 12,000 square miles, and includes Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Rifle.


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