FOX 31′s Eli Stokols reports:
Republican Attorney General John Suthers issued a formal opinion Tuesday afternoon that Metro State College of Denver cannot legally create a new, lower category of tuition for undocumented students.
The school’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 earlier this month to do just that, reigniting the debate over tuition equity just a couple of months after state lawmakers again killed a bill that aimed to make college more affordable for qualifying illegal immigrants…
Metro State’s President, Dr. Stephen Jordan, and Trustee Melody Harris are set to meet Wednesday afternoon with the Joint Budget Committee at the Capitol after Chairwoman Cheri Gerou requested a meeting to determine how the school decided to move ahead with its proposal.
“My goal is not to make this any more political than it already is,” said Gerou Tuesday. “I just want to find out what Metro’s thought process was, why they decided to do this, because they never hinted they were going down this road when they presented to us before.”
As the state’s only 4-year open enrollment “college of opportunity,” downtown Denver’s Metro State would always have been one of the more affected schools from any legislation or policy change easing the burden on undocumented students. Metro’s comparatively low tuition, and relatively high dependence on state funding compared to other institutions, make the school naturally more vulnerable to the political whim of legislators holding the purse strings.
Proponents say there is legal precedent for Metro’s policy change, and point to a California Supreme Court decision, Martinez vs. Board of Regents of the University of California, which held that “exemption from nonresident tuition did not violate statute prohibiting education benefits to unlawful aliens on basis of residence.” An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.
Regardless, after Attorney General John Suthers’ non-binding advisory opinion yesterday, there is a great deal of attention focusing on this afternoon’s meeting of the legislative Joint Budget Committee. GOP JBC chair Rep. Cheri Gerou has come uncomfortably close to making threats to Metro State’s funding in news coverage of Metro State’s original decision. There are differing opinions as to the range of options Republicans on the JBC might entertain to deal with this “problem.” But given the free-wheeling lack of discretion with legislative power we’ve seen this year, it’s probably wise to not rule anything out in advance of today’s meeting.