Senators kill Native tuition bill

DENVER – Senators killed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed Native Americans students from dozens of tribes with ties to Colorado to get in-state tuition at any Colorado college.

The sponsor, Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, said members of the Senate Appropriations Committee killed the bill because of its roughly $6 million price tag.

“This is because of the funding. People are searching around for ways to balance the budget,” Tochtrop said. “I’m rather disappointed.”

With eight days left in their yearly session, legislators are still considering a number of tax benefits and other spending bills. The same committee that killed Tochtrop’s bill approved more than a dozen other bills with a combined price tag of $10 million Tuesday morning.

House Bill 1124 would have offered in-state tuition at any Colorado public college to members of any of 48 tribes with historic ties to the state.

The only college unaffected by the bill would have been Fort Lewis College, which already offers free tuition to Native American students of any tribe.

The bill’s death came just a day after senators made a symbolic tribute to the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre, the 1864 slaughter of an Indian camp by cavalry troops based in Denver. Tochtrop lamented that some of the students who would have benefitted from the bill descended from families displaced by the massacre.

Tochtrop said sponsors would try again next year, and until then, she said Fort Lewis can continue to provide affordable education to Native American students.

An analysis released Tuesday showed the bill would have cost state taxpayers an projected $783,000, in addition to $5.3 million in lost tuition revenues at state colleges. The University of Colorado and the community college system were predicted to get the most students.