Tom Tancredo will be suing MSU Denver as soon as he can find a plaintiff for his case.
Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo has set his sights on the university since the approval of the Colorado High School/GED Nonresident tuition rate. On June 26, he announced his plans to sue the school through his non-profit organization the Rocky Mountain Foundation.
For the past month, Tancredo has been placing ads in The Metropolitan in search of plaintiffs. The ads read: “Paying Out of State Tuition? Annoyed that you are being ripped off by Metro’s policy allowing a lower rate for non-citizen students?”
He has received a handful of positive responses to the ad, but according to Tancredo, none of the students are willing to be involved for fear of the repercussions from their teachers and administrators.
“They think it’s unfair that they’re paying full boat and students in the country illegally aren’t,” Tancredo said. “When they say to me ‘some of my teachers will exact retribution,’ I can’t say ‘oh no that could never occur.’ Of course it can. It simply is possible.”
Tancredo said it is hard to follow up with the lawsuit under these circumstances, but it’s not impossible.
“We really have to wait and see whether we want to pursue [it] if we can’t get anybody else. I think the safest thing to say is we will look at it at that point and make a decision,” he said.
Cathy Lucas, MSU Denver’s associate to the president for marketing and communications, said that students and faculty are protected by freedom of speech and would not encounter the environment described by Tancredo. The school retained outside legal counsel in late May in anticipation of such lawsuits.
“Should we be sued, we believe we are on firm legal ground,” Lucas said. “We reviewed current state statute and deemed this is a legitimate policy within the trustees’ authority. The structure of nonresident tuition rates by state higher education institutions are not required to be authorized by the state legislature and this nonresident tuition rate contained no state subsidy.”
Tancredo disagreed and said that the rate change for undocumented students is only up to the legislature. He called the new tuition “unfair, illegal, an incentive for people to come to the U.S illegally and a slap in the face to every single [immigrant] who has done it the right way.”
Lilia Chavez, an MSU Denver junior who qualifies under the new rate, disagrees with the lawsuit.
“Out-of-state students that have lived here long enough can file for in-state tuition,” Chavez said. “We cannot, and most of us have lived here our whole lives. Whether they like it or not, we are part of this society and will continue to be. If there was a way to [apply for status] legally without waiting years for a visa to come or being separated from our families and what we call home, we would do it. It is not even a guarantee that if we applied for the visa, we would get it. We love this country and I’ll speak for myself, I love my school. Do they not think that by allowing students like me go to college, it actually benefits society?”
As of now, MSU Denver has placed 240 students under the new rate — 97 continuing students, and 143 new students — making up less than 1 percent of this year’s fall student body, according to Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, associate vice president for enrollment management.
Citizens who have been living out of state also qualify for the new rate if they can prove they attended a Colorado high school for three years and have graduated from one.
“It was the Board of Trustees and MSU Denver’s administration’s intent to provide access and affordability to all of Colorado’s high school students,” Lucas said. “It was never our intent to disregard Colorado’s law or its legislature. And we do not believe we have done this.”
The Colorado High School/GED Non-resident Tuition Rate is designed for undocumented students who live in Colorado and have attended and graduated from a Colorado high school or hold a GED. It was approved by the MSU Denver Board of Trustees on June 15.
Below is a comparison of tuition rates (15 credit hours/two semesters) set by the Board of Trustees for the 2012-13 academic year:
•Colorado resident tuition = $4,304
•Non-resident tuition = $15,985
•Colorado High School/GED Non-resident tuition = $7,157
Students who qualify for the new rate are not eligible for financial aid or student loans and must pay all mandatory student fees including, if applicable, student health insurance.
•The student must have attended a Colorado high school for at least three years.
•The student must have graduated from a Colorado high school or completed a GED in Colorado.
•The student must submit a notarized affidavit which states, except for their immigration status, he or she is in good legal standing and is seeking or intends to seek lawful status when eligible.