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Instate Tuition Bill Gains Momentum With GOP Support

Jim Hill

After several hours of debate, a bill to give illegal immigrant Colorado students in-state college tuition initially passed the state senate.

  It’ll likely be the last time the state senate takes up this debate. The measure is poised to pass the Democratic controlled house and the Governor has pledged to sign it.

Democrats have introduced a similar bill 6 times before. In the past it didn’t even have enough Democratic votes to pass. In recent years Republicans blocked it in the house when they controlled that chamber.

Times have changed and even some GOP lawmakers are now on board, including Greg Brophy (R-Wray). He says he can no longer vote against the bill when he personally knows students who would benefit from it.

“They can’t leave here to go home because they are home,” said Brophy. “And if they are home, they’re going to stay here and they ought to have the exact same opportunities that the other kids that go to school have.”

To qualify for instate tuition under senate bill 33 a student must’ve attended a Colorado high school for at least three years, graduated, be accepted to college and apply for citizenship. Democratic senator Michael Johnston of Denver is the main sponsor. The former high school principal says hardworking students shouldn’t be priced out of a college degree.

“These kids are kids who grew up knowing they would fight for every opportunity they were ever going to get,” said Johnston. “They are the single most grateful population I’ve ever taught or worked with or stood on the graduation stage with. They are not driven by the belief that opportunity is owed to them but by the hope that opportunity is open to them."

Many Republicans still oppose the bill saying it won’t solve immigration problems and will cost the state money.

“If we’re going to eliminate out of state tuition, maybe we should do it for everybody for all international students coming to Colorado, are they not welcome?” said Kent Lambert (R- Colorado Springs).

Democrats have a five seat majority in the senate, so they actually don't need any Republican support to get the bill through this year. However, three Republicans said they would join Democrats to support the bill. A final vote is expected as early as Monday.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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