About 640 students have enrolled in state colleges and universities this fall under the new ASSET program, which makes undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates.

The new program was created by Senate Bill 13-33, passed last spring after a decade-long battle to make undocumented students eligible for less-expensive resident tuition. (Get background in this EdNews story.) A rough legislative staff estimate project 500 students would take advantage of the new law.

The bulk of the ASSET students, 348 of them, enrolled at Metropolitan State University. Metro got a head start on the law by lowering tuition rates for undocumented students in the fall of 2012. The university also has been aggressive in recruiting students and providing services for them. This fall’s enrollment includes 121 new students and 227 continuing or readmitted students.

“Our ASSET student enrollment is a remarkable testament to MSU Denver and the trust students have for our institution, says Luis Torres, deputy provost. “These students may now go to any local college or university, yet they continue to choose MSU Denver.”

(Metro in general has a highly diverse enrollment. According to figures released Friday, 19.2 percent of students are Hispanic, 31 percent are first generation and 31.8 percent are eligible for federal Pell Grants.)

The next largest group of ASSET students, 174, is in the community college system. Spokeswoman Rhonda Bentz said, “We do anticipate that number going up because this is such a new program.”

Here are enrollment figures for other campuses in the state system:

  • University of Colorado System – 43 at Boulder, 14 at Denver and 13 at Colorado Springs
  • Colorado State University System – 8 at Fort Collins and 5 at Pueblo
  • Colorado Mesa University – 45
  • University of Northern Colorado – 8

Adams State University and Western Colorado State University each reported enrolling three ASSET students, and Fort Lewis College reported “fewer than five.”

The Department of Higher Education reported in late August that 2,880 potential ASSET students had registered online for College Opportunity Fund eligibility. (A key portion of SB 13-33 made undocumented students eligible for the fund, which provides a tuition discount for Colorado residents.) Applying for fund eligibility is only part of the college application process and doesn’t necessarily translate into submission of an application or admission and enrollment.

To be eligible for resident tuition, students must have attended a Colorado high school for three years prior to graduation or have finished a GED, be admitted to a state college or university and provide an affidavit stating they have applied for lawful residency in the U.S. or will apply as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Legislative analysts last spring estimated that there were about 1,500 undocumented students among the 19,000 students who graduated from high school in 2012 but did not attend a state college.