Vail Daily column: Open and inclusive to all
This past weekend, I joined a crowded room in Glenwood Springs to listen to those who may be affected by potential changes to federal immigration policy. Organized by a local attorney, the meeting was filled with educators, elected officials, government workers, representatives of nonprofit organizations, and many students, children and families. All were seeking to understand the potential effects following the recent national election and to hear from community members who expressed fear and uncertainty about the future.
The truth is that none of us knows what will change — if anything — come Jan. 20. Many campaign promises were made, but actual plans are unclear. What we do know, however, is that many in our communities are anxious. They, like all of us, have heard stories of heightened bullying in schools, seen racially charged graffiti on the news and watched multi-day protest marches in dozens of American cities.
Some who could be affected by changes to federal law have started to ask my colleagues and me whether college is even worth the effort anymore. To a lifelong advocate for equity and college access, I find this sentiment to be both troubling and sad.
In the midst of this anxious environment, I want to offer clear and accurate information about the laws governing tuition and enrollment at Colorado Mountain College and the conduct expectations for those affiliated with it.
First, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not necessary to pay the lower in-state tuition rate at Colorado’s public colleges and universities for many, if not most, current high school students. Colorado has a separate law called ASSET that allows students who have been in our state’s high schools for three or more years and graduated to earn in-state status. This law could change, of course, but it would require action from the Colorado legislature, not from Washington, D.C.
Second, students do not need to be U.S. citizens to enroll in public colleges or universities. Our colleges routinely enroll students from around the world and have many students whose statuses are uncertain, such as homeless youth. There are certainly a number of very important requirements necessary to establish eligibility for in-state tuition, which is considered a public benefit, but these policies only apply to costs and do not affect one’s opportunity to participate in college.
Similarly, all students who are enrolled in our local high schools are allowed to participate in concurrent enrollment programs at no cost for tuition. The concurrent enrollment program is governed by Colorado laws and is unique to our state. As long as students are enrolled in public high schools, concurrent enrollment can be available to them.
Finally, federal law has never permitted undocumented students access to federal financial aid such as Pell grants and student loans. All students enrolled in college, however, may receive support from private foundations and certain merit-based financial aid programs. So, a number of scholarship resources may be available for enrolled students.
The most important message is: Don’t give up on your education or your dreams.
As the future unfolds, CMC remains committed to helping every student succeed regardless of citizenship or political views. The results of the recent election compel us to listen and better serve those disadvantaged by our global economy. As such, CMC is committed to developing the skills necessary for all students to achieve economic success and resiliency. Connect with our admissions or financial aid teams. Share your aspirations with our counseling staff or spend time with our terrific faculty. Again, don’t give up.
As a final reminder, let’s all honor and observe the expectations for conduct found in our Constitution as well as the rules we live by at CMC. Both governing frameworks allow freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble to share opinions and ideas. As an unbiased institution, the college embraces these ideals and encourages opportunities for debate, exploration, learning and growth that are peaceful, respectful and civil. The college also takes seriously the responsibility to ensure that the freedoms, rights and safety of all students and employees are honored and protected.
Fifty years ago CMC was established by our mountain communities. That commitment will not waver as long as I’m president, so please join your college and your community to ensure we are — and forever will remain — open and inclusive to all.
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Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser is president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @CMCPresident.