Metro Backs Off Partly from Immigrant Tuition Policy

Metro State College of Denver has backed partly away from a decision to charge out-of-state tuition to Colorado residents and U.S. citizens whose parents are illegal immigrants.

In an email Thursday afternoon, Metro announced that college president Stephen Jordan had told administrators to provisionally admit resident-citizens under an in-state tuition plan that would change only if Colorado Attorney General John Suthers rules that those students must be charged an out-of-state rate.

Suthers’ decision is expected before school starts for the fall semester, Jordan said.

“Much attention has been paid recently to Metro State’s implementation of state law, which we understood to require the College to charge out-of-state tuition to applicants whose parents can not prove that they are lawfully present in the United States, even if the applicant is a U.S. citizen by birth, has lived in Colorado, and has graduated from a Colorado high school,” Jordan told administrators in a Thursday email. “I have received many questions both internally and externally asking for background on our implementation of this policy and want to offer further clarification.”

Jordan said he wasn’t aware that some other state colleges, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University and the state’s 13 community colleges, were charging in-state tuition to Colorado residents and U.S. citizens regardless of their parents’ legal status.

When Jordan learned of the discrepancy, he surveyed other schools and discovered that Mesa State, Adams State and Western State colleges, as well as the University of Colorado at Denver, interpreted a new law the same way his school did.

That law was supposed to deny state benefits to illegal immigrants. Combined with a “domicile” requirement for the parents of in-state students spelled out in another law,  Metro and some others took that to mean that students under 23 whose parents were undocumented could not receive in-state tuition.

If the attorney general agrees with that interpretation, Metro will raise the tuition on provisionally admitted resident-citizens, a move that would hike their tuition from $3,000 to $11,000 per year.

At the same time, Jordan committed to work to change the law to “what it should be.” That would be in-state tuition for all resident-citizens, regardless of their parents’ legal status.