Metropolitan State University of Denver opened its doors for the 2012-2013 school year on Monday with a new policy in place. The school has developed a tuition program which allows undocumented immigrants (DREAMers) who live in Colorado to attend the University at a reduced tuition fee.
“This initiative speaks to Metro State’s mission as an urban institution by providing affordable, accessible education to all qualified students,” said the president of Metropolitan State, Stephen Jordan, in a statement. “We don’t deny students an opportunity to get an education at the K-12 level, so why would we continue to create barriers at the higher education level?”
The decision to reduce tuition was put to a board vote in June of 2012. When it passed, immigrant rights activists championed the move as critics within the state condemned it. Conservatives have threatened to sue the University, claiming the school has openly defied Colorado law, which has denied more than five similar attempts around the state to assist undocumented immigrants.
Jordan told The New York Times the Metropolitan State University took action after a similar law failed to make it through the state’s legislature. He says the school board felt it was important for all residents in Colorado to become educated, contributing members of the state.
“Clearly, from our perspective, these are young people who were brought here of no accord of their own,” he stated. “I think what our board was saying was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to provide an affordable tuition rate for these students?’ ”
The tuition break is not as substantial as if the students were citizens of Colorado. As legal residents, tuition would cost approximately $4,000 annually—as an undocumented immigrant, the cost goes up to approximately $7,000. Still, out-of-state attendees pay an even higher rate of approximately $15,000 to attend the university for one year.
Eighteen-year-old Dalia Quezada an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, will be taking advantage of the new tuition program offered at Metropolitan State this year.
“My dream was always to attend a big university,” she said. “But realistically, it was too expensive. But when Metro made the change, it opened up an opportunity. It’s like my dream is becoming a reality.”
Even though close to 20 percent of Colorado’s population is Hispanic, the new tuition policy has drawn harsh criticism from Republicans in the state, as well as from Colorado’s attorney general, John W. Suthers.
“The decision by Metropolitan State College of Denver to proceed on its own to create a new tuition category, undeterred by the legislature’s repeated rejection of specific authorizing legislation, is simply not supported by governing law,” Suthers said in a statement. An email from his office to The New York Times declined a formal statement, citing possible litigations as the cause.
Threats of being sued aside, Metropolitan State has been accepting applications into the program, and students who have enrolled say the reduced tuition gives them an opportunity to focus on their studies rather than how they will afford to pay for college.
“The best change comes from the bottom up and this is a meaningful example of this change,” says Rep. Crisanta Duran, who gave her support to the initiative.