In a victory for undocumented students, Colorado will now allow eligible immigrant youth to access state financial aid for college, following Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ signature this week of Colorado House Bill 1196. University of North Colorado assistant vice president Tobias Guzmán applauded the move. “UNC supports the legislation because it speaks of equity and inclusion, positively supports families of Colorado and is a logical next step in efforts to erase the achievement gap and support students to graduation.”
Undocumented immigrant youth, whether or not they have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, are barred from accessing federal financial aid, even though their tax dollars pay into the system. Only a small number of states allow some undocumented youth to access state financial aid—and Colorado now joins them. “The law builds upon a 2013 effort that charged undocumented students in-state tuition,” The Denver Post reports, “which is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition.”
“Passage of the bill expands upon in-state classification granted in the ASSET bill and allows state aid to be awarded to undocumented students who have resided in the state for at least three years before graduating from a Colorado high school or passing a high school equivalency exam,” said Guzmán.
Up until recent legislation was passed, Arkansas also required DACA recipients to pay out-of-state tuition at public colleges and universities, even if they’d grown up in the state. “For the 2018-19 school year, in-state tuition at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville is $9,130,” the Arkansas Times reported in April. “For out-of-state students, it is $25,168.” Coupled with responsibilities many immigrant youth already have, such as financially assisting their households, this put higher education out of reach.
Colorado is home to about 15,000 DACA recipients. Until legislation that permanently protects undocumented youth and their families passes Congress, these are steps states can take to protect their undocumented residents. “At UNC,” Guzmán continued, “we have seen a dramatic increase in our Latino and Latina identified student population and since the passing of the Asset Bill in 2013 and the UNC board was unequivocally supportive of the asset bill, we have witnessed a growth in our students with DACA, ASSET, and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) designation.”