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Undocumented students take up Metro offer

Updated 11:30 a.m. Sept. 6 – Metro State trustee chair Rob Cohen said today, “We remain committed to the decision we made” on offering a special tuition rate for undocumented students.

Cohen made his remarks as the board held its first meeting since the June session at which it approved the rate.

Metro State has enrolled 238 students under the special tuition rate, a university official told members the trustees. Some 266 students applied for the rate, and 254 were determined to be eligible. Of the students who enrolled, 219 are Hispanic.

Other than Cohen’s remarks, there wasn’t board discussion on the undocumented enrollment report.

“This has been very, very successful. … It has attracted new students,” Luis Torres, vice president of academic affairs, told members of the board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee during a Wednesday meeting.

Torres also noted, “It’s been a very interesting summer” since the trustees voted 7-1 to approve the policy, which goes by the bureaucratic name of the “Colorado High School/GED Non-Resident Tuition Rate.”

The board’s decision prompted the legislative Joint Budget Committee to call in Metro leaders to explain themselves, stirred some Republican lawmakers to formally complain to Gov. John Hickenlooper and led GOP Attorney General John Suthers to issue an opinion concluding the tuition rate was illegal.

“Despite all that media [and] some negative comments,” Torres said, many students still applied.

“We’ve hit some kind of educational nerve,” Torres said, noting the national media attention drawn to the policy. He said criticism always comes “when previously marginalized groups begin to get access to higher education.”

Material provided to the committee Wednesday indicated 245 students had enrolled. But the full board was told today the actual number is 238. Metro was conducting its student census on Wednesday so still is compiling final numbers.

Torres said the lower cost should enable continuing students to take more classes than they did when paying higher tuition and hopefully improve graduation rates.

Some 123 of the students identified themselves as Hispanic, and 111 didn’t provide ethnic identification. More than 90 continuing students are in the group.

Preliminary figures put Metro’s fall enrollment at 23,049, 19.5 percent of that Hispanic.

The new tuition rate is $3,578.50 for 15 credit hours, a full class load for one semester. The comparable tuition for out-of-state students is $7,992.60 next year, and the resident cost is $3,082.

The rate for undocumented students is structured to avoid taxpayer subsidy of such students and is intended to reflect the full cost of education, something that’s partially subsidized for resident students. Undocumented students also aren’t eligible for state or institutional financial aid.

To be eligible for the special rate a student must have attended a Colorado high school for at least three years, graduated from a Colorado high school or received a general equivalency diploma in the state and provide a statement that he or she is in good legal standing, other than their undocumented or unclassified status, and are seeking or intend to seek lawful status when eligible.

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