CMC applauds new law expanding college access for undocumented students
In a meaningful show of support for expanding higher education access throughout Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed HB22-1155 (in-state tuition for Colorado high school graduates) into law at an event at the Community College of Denver on May 26.
The bill was advanced by Colorado Mountain College but expands opportunities across the state. It removes several barriers that prevented thousands of undocumented high school students from qualifying for in-state tuition rates.
The bill was supported by all public colleges and universities in Colorado and was endorsed by numerous business organizations on the Western Slope, including the Vail Valley Partnership and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“We were thrilled that a pair of local legislators, Reps. Julie McCluskie and Perry Will, carried HB22-1155,” stated CMC President and CEO Carrie Hauser in a news release. “This bill, also sponsored by Denver area Sens. Julie Gonzales and Dominick Moreno, will unlock opportunities to college and high-wage careers for thousands of individuals across our region and the state. And, though CMC was the primary instigator for the bill, it really was an effort to support mountain businesses by enabling all high school graduates to prepare for good jobs in our communities.”
Before HB22-1155, Colorado law (“ASSET”) placed arbitrary restrictions on undocumented high school students before they could qualify for in-state tuition. For example, these students must have attended a Colorado high school for three years before qualifying for in-state tuition. All other residents must be in the state for only one year to qualify. HB22-1155 aligns the one-year standard for all high school graduates, regardless of citizenship.
Additionally, students benefiting from the ASSET law had to enroll in college within 12 months of high school graduation to maintain their eligibility. This “use it or lose it” provision was removed in HB22-1155, which will allow students who decided to work after high school a chance to return to college. It will also help those who delay their enrollment for other reasons — like a global pandemic.
CMC executive director of strategic initiatives Yesenia Silva Estrada participated in the bill signing ceremony in Denver. While at the event, Silva Estrada stated, “During my career working in our rural mountain regions I have seen thousands of students without the ability to gain an education. Recently, the pandemic further exacerbated these inequities. House Bill 1155 will help these students, especially those from our rural communities, get back on track, fill the jobs in our local businesses, and fully participate in our economy.”
CMC board of trustees president Peg Portscheller remarked on the significant impacts the late Colorado Rep. Val Vigil, for whom the bill was renamed the “Val Vigil ASSET Act” by the Colorado Senate.
“House Bill 22-1155 not only honors the rich diversity of mountain communities,” Portscheller said, “but it also pays tribute to the legacy of a passionate champion for undocumented children, the late Colorado Rep. Val Vigil.”
Portscheller added, “I knew Rep. Vigil and the kind of person he was. He introduced numerous bills nearly identical to HB22-1155; all failed. He was ahead of his time, but he never gave up. Unfortunately, Rep. Vigil isn’t alive to see HB22-1155 signed into law, but we are delighted to see his name forever associated with this bill.”