If you follow local politics, it's hard not to hear the cacophony as our state legislature strives to meet the challenge of bipartisan cooperation called for at the session's opening last month. But I'm encouraged to hear a cooperative chord rising from the Capitol as we search for common ground in an area offering an opportunity for real progress critical to Coloradans.
I represent a district that is emblematic of Colorado's changing complexion. Forty percent of the population in the neighborhoods making up Senate District 32 [from Bear Valley and Fort Logan to Washington Park and Cherry Creek] are considered minorities, including a 32 percent Hispanic population. My neighbors can back up the fact that immigration issues remain among the hottest of Colorado's hot-button issues, but I hear nearly universal agreement, in my conversations in the community and under the golden dome regarding immigration: Our system is broken and needs repair.
We know immigration reform is primarily a federal responsibility, but Colorado has the opportunity to make meaningful change affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens-the innocent children who came with their families to Colorado and have taken the initiative to work their way through our school systems and to strive to become productive members of our community by furthering their education.
Senate Bill 015 offers a solution that benefits Colorado students who aspire to higher education, rewards the colleges and universities that opt to receive their tuition, and strengthens the community as we welcome to the workforce a new generation of Colorado-educated young adults eager to contribute.
The product of years of compromise and fine-tuning, SB-015 may have finally found a unique solution for our state. The bill offers the introduction of an optional "standard rate" of tuition for Colorado colleges and universities, a rate significantly higher than the rate offered to in-state students but notably lower than that offered to out-of-state students. The rate would be available to undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools, and every college and university would have the option to choose whether to implement the tuition rate, with two key stipulations: The students are not eligible for state or federal financial aid, and the students must apply for citizenship.
This is an innovate idea whose time has come. The benefits of investing in an educated workforce while providing an estimated influx of $1.75 million to $4.2 million in new revenue to Colorado's higher education institutions is reason enough to celebrate. But at least as important is the proactive step Colorado would be taking to put motivated students on a path to citizenship, ensuring that their participation in the standard tuition rate option for higher education is part of a documented effort to play by Colorado's rules and enter our community as full participants.
Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico and Utah have all enacted similar programs, as has Texas, and the economic boom that has come their way has not been lost on my colleagues in the Colorado State Assembly. It's time Colorado steps up with the creativity and compassion we are known for as we seek what's best for our children and our future.
Colorado's optional standard tuition rate embodies an extension of our heritage as Americans, honoring fairness and the effort to turn hard work into citizenship by helping young people find a way to overcome the obstacles in their way and become productive, full participants in our society. The bill is Colorado's humane, homegrown effort to blaze a path toward acceptance for students eager to build on their secondary school education and to embrace citizenship.