Yesterday at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 33, also known as the ASSET bill, granting undocumented high school graduates and those with General Equivalency Diplomas access to in-state public university tuition rates. Colorado is the 14th state to pass such a law. The bill was initially passed in March with support from both Democrat and Republican state legislators by a 40-21 vote.
Considered a victory that some in the state had been fighting ten years for, undocumented students who want to access the benefit have to prove physical presence in the state including proof that they attended a public or private high school in Colorado for at least three years immediately preceding graduation or completion their GED in state. Undocumented students would also have to be admitted to a Colorado public college and sign an affidavit saying they are seeking, or will seek, legal status in the U.S.
Prior to this law, undocumented students had to pay the out-of-state tuition rate, sometimes more than three times higher than the in-state rate.This made higher education inaccessible to many. It is hoped that this law will open access for many more young undocumented students.
Other states that allow in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students include California, Utah and Connecticut. This law, like other in-state tuition laws does not however grant any sort of legal status to undocumented students. It is likewise not a deferred action program like DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals). So it does not protect undocumented students from detention or deportation. Only passage of the DREAM Act or a comprehensive immigration reform bill, like the one recently presented by Senate “Gang of Eight” could. However, even those legislative options are limited, either by standards undocumented youth have to meet or by border security triggers that have to be met before anyone gets provisional residency, much less citizenship.