A new law in Colorado allows out-of-state Native American students with historical ties to the state to pay in-state tuition starting this fall semester.
Governor Jared Polis signed SB21-209 into law on Monday to acknowledge that several Native American tribes were forced out of the state, allowing members of the 48 indigenous tribes that once lived in Colorado to pay the tuition rate of state residents.
Colorado currently has only two federally recognized tribes within the state: the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain Tribe.
In another move to address past wrongs committed against indigenous communities, Governor Polis signed SB21-116 into law, which mandates that any public schools using a Native American mascot without securing formal approval from a tribe will face a $25,000 monthly fine starting June 2022.
Social Justice for Indigenous Communities
House Speaker Alex Garnett, who was also a bill sponsor, told The Denver Post that the bill is “long overdue” and the support shown by other institutions indicates that it will have a positive influence on Colorado.
Garnett also said that it would help schools rebuild relationships with the tribes, and help higher education institutions diversify their student bodies.
Other colleges and universities have offered discounted tuition for indigenous students. For example, Fort Lewis College offers free tuition for members of a US federally recognized Native American tribe or Alaska Native. Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder also offer Native American students in-state tuition.