Colo. lawmaker backs off Indian tuition plan
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – A Colorado lawmaker who suggested changing a waiver for American Indian students at Fort Lewis College said Friday she will kill the bill on Monday, but she insisted her measure would not have hurt Native American students.
Democratic Rep. Karen Middleton of Aurora sponsored a bill to have cut $1.8 million from the college’s budget, based on reducing reimbursement for out-of-state tuition for Native American students.
Under her bill, students would still have been able to attend free, but college officials argued they would have to cut staff and courses, providing less of an education.
Middleton said all colleges and universities are being affected by budget cuts as the state tries to cope with a projected $1 billion shortfall next year, but she said the cuts to Fort Lewis College were unique and required a policy change.
“This was never about Native American students,” she said.
The state tuition waiver began in 1911 as a condition for accepting thousands of acres of land in Hesperus in southwest Colorado. In exchange for the land, the federal government and state lawmakers agreed to provide a free education for all Native American students.
This year, 608 out-of-state American Indian students and 130 in-state American Indian students accepted the offer.
Rico Munn, director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, rejected suggestions that the bill would violate the agreement.
“It never had anything to do with Native American students,” Munn said.
Ernest House Jr., a member of the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, said he also believes the cuts would not have hurt Native American students. He also said it would not violate the agreement between Native Americans and the state government.
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