DENVER - A bill allowing lower tuition rates for illegal immigrant students received final approval from state House lawmakers Friday.
The bill passed 40-21 and will now proceed to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign the bill. Three Republicans joined with all the Democratic lawmakers to approve the bill.
Hickenlooper tweeted, "Undocumented kids will now have a fair and equitable way to pursue a higher education in CO. Well done."
The bill allows students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college at the in-state rate regardless of their immigration status.
Currently, students in the country illegally must pay the non-resident tuition rate, which can be more than three times higher than the in-state rate.
The proposal and similar bills have been debated at the Colorado Legislature for a decade. Both parties have voted to defeat the bills in the past. Republicans argued that a federal immigration overhaul needs to happen first.
The bill has some specific requirements: Students must graduate from a Colorado high school, they must have resided in Colorado for at least three consecutive years and they must sign an affidavit stating they are seeking citizenship.
Legislative analysts say the measure could affect some 500 students next school year.
In the past, many Republicans have said that the legislation raises an issue of fairness because illegal immigrants would be receiving a benefit that other students don't receive. But Democrats say the state has invested in the immigrants' education in state public schools and they should have the chance to attend college at an affordable rate.