Mariana Pascual of Colorado Springs is a Dreamer — a young person brought to the United States as an undocumented child — as well as a student body president and an aspiring teacher.
“As of now, I feel as if my life is on hold, waiting to hear from private scholarships, as that is the only financial assistance I can get,” she told a Colorado Senate committee last month.
When Pascual testified, undocumented immigrants in Colorado were ineligible for state financial aid. She said that led her brother, an accomplished student, to defer his college dreams.
On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law House Bill 1196, allowing undocumented students to apply for and receive state financial aid. The law builds upon a 2013 effort that charged undocumented students in-state tuition, which is significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition.
Polis signed the bill at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, which is where former Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the 2013 bill. Representatives from the university had testified in support of this year’s bill, saying it will help their student body, which includes many first-generation students.
The university estimates its undergraduate class of roughly 20,000 students includes 402 who lack lawful immigration status. About 250 of those became eligible for state financial aid with the governor’s signature Monday.
During debate on the bill, Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat, said the average award in state financial aid is about $2,250. The state spends $174 million a year on financial aid.
“The undocumented population is not a large one, unfortunately, at our Colorado public colleges and universities. So I don’t see an extreme risk of crowding out anyone else by extending this to undocumented students,” said Moreno, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor.
A legislative liaison for the Colorado Department of Higher Education told senators there are 1,350 undocumented students statewide that will now become eligible for state tuition help. That expands the pool of eligibility for state aid by 2%.
No one testified against the bill and there was no debate about it on the floors of the House and Senate. The House passed it 41-24 with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. The Senate passed it 21-13, with several Republicans joining all Democrats in favor.
This content was originally published here.