CU Students rally to support ASSET bill to provide in-state tuition for undocumented students

Miranda Aragon (left) and Is Chaker cheer on speakers at rally on CU campus to support ASSET. (Volckhausen)

BOULDER – Over 100 CU students braved the fierce cold on Wednesday to show support for SB 126, which would grant undocumented Colorado students access to higher education through in-state tuition.

Last week, Rep. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, introduced a bill that would allow undocumented students who graduated from high school in Colorado access to in-state tuition.

Proponents of the bill argue that in addition to the human rights benefits, the bill would offer the state many economic benefits as well. The bill sponsors estimate it will allow 900 students to attend state schools and bring in an additional $1.75 million to $4.2 million a year to Colorado higher-education institutions.

“In-state tuition is not free tuition. Students pay their own way to go to college. No taxpayer dollars will go toward paying their tuition,” said Sen. Giron in a press release. “These students will not receive the $2,000 Colorado Opportunity Fund voucher that is given to other in-state tuition students. “

Eye Resist – a newly formed student organization -organized the event to call attention to the bill and let lawmakers know that many students support the proposed legislation.

“We believe that education is not a privilege, it’s a basic human right,” said Chela Garcia to the cheering crowd. “Everyone deserves access to a better life through education and that includes undocumented students.”

CU student and Eye Resist organizer, Brittni Hernandez told the Colorado Independent that through grassroots action and increased awareness, SB 126 can succeed even though a similar bill failed in 2009. “As a student in 2009, I didn’t know about that bill. But today the energy is here and I think we have a fighting chance.”

Dr. Barbosa, who teaches Latin American history at CU, argued at the rally that this bill would protect a vital component of the American Dream.

“My parent came here as immigrants from Nicaragua and through hard work and determination I ended up where I am today. Sadly, my story is no longer possible,” said Dr. Barbosa. “We need ASSET to keep the American Dream alive and maintain the beautiful standard of living we enjoy in this country.”

In 2009, CU was the only public university that did not come out in support of the in-state tuition bill. CU Regent Monisha Merchant spoke at the rally in support of the bill, but said that she is uncertain whether the Board of Regents will support the bill.

The rally also featured a senior high school student from Denver, Alicia, whose life would be directly influenced by the passage of ASSET. Alicia has been accepted into multiple universities across Colorado, but she does not have documentation and so currently she cannot afford to attend university in Colorado.

Alicia told the Colorado Independent that while she wants to stay in Colorado, if the ASSET bill does not pass she would most likely have to move to another state where she can afford tuition. “I want to study medicine in Colorado, but without ASSET, that will not be possible.”

Taran Volckhausen is a freelance journalist who primarily writes about the environment, politics, and drug policy. His work has appeared on National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Intercept, Mongabay, among others. He is also a former editor at Colombia Reports. Twitter: @tvolckhausen

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