Tuition Equity Fails in Colorado Despite Strong Support From Business

Yesterday, a Colorado bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition to attend the state's colleges and universities died in the House Education Committee, on a partisan vote. The "ASSET" bill - standing for "Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow"
- had passed the full state Senate earlier this month.

Despite its failure this year, ASSET still enjoys strong support from Colorado's business and educator communities, who view it as a key workforce and economic development proposal that would improve educational access and inject much-needed revenue into the state's strapped higher education system and help address the state's current overall budget deficit. The bill was the centerpiece of a broad and effective coalition, having been endorsed by education advocates, key business leaders and chambers of commerce, student groups, and immigrant rights advocates.

While this week's disappointing vote is a setback, Colorado continues to show positive signs of taking a more measured and forward-thinking approach to immigration. Earlier this year, lawmakers soundly defeated a bill that aimed to copy Arizona's controversial and misguided immigration enforcement law, SB 1070. And thanks in large part to a growing Latino population and increasingly influential Latino electorate, key progressive lawmakers have consistently avoided the kind of overheated anti-immigrant rhetoric that has emerged in many other states during legislative sessions.

State lawmakers missed an opportunity yesterday to improve educational access for thousands, decrease drop-out rates among high school students, and help the cash-strapped state university system. Nonetheless, gains were made, particularly in the Senate, where many Democrats supported the bill who had previously opposed a similar measure in 2008. This momentum will certainly carry over to next year, with Colorado poised to become a leader in advancing state-level pro-immigrant legislation.