DENVER - No matter which side of the immigration debate you may stand on, one thing is certain - life is more difficult for people who cannot speak English. That's why the Emily Griffith Technical College wants to open up English classes for all students, legal or not.
"We're not looking at where our students come from. We're just looking at the fact that they're here," said Linda Van Doren, Dean of Instruction for English as a Second Language classes.
Van Doren pushed for the policy change that will drop the residency requirements for enrollment into the school's ESL classes.
"Non-residency tuition had been about three times as much," said Van Doren. "We thought that was a real barrier to learning English."
While illegal immigrants can benefit from this policy change which takes effect immediately, Van Doren says the main thrust for the change is aimed at legal immigrants like Layla Ahmadi, a student from Iran.
"For me, it's very important," said Ahmadi. "It's very important because the tuition is very high."
Van Doren hopes the change will also help refugees who now live in Denver.
"To improve their prospects for jobs, to help their kids in schools here, to really make plans for their futures," said Van Doren. "There are over 2,000 refugees in the state of Colorado at the moment."
The costs for one English class will now range from $135 to $162. Before the change, a student could pay close to $500 per class.
"It's known and it's written on the walls of our building, 'For all who wish to learn'," said Van Doren. "The price point was a barrier for all who wish to learn."
The residency requirements are still in place for all the other course offerings at Emily Griffith such as auto repair, hair styling, and welding. The changes only impact the English as a Second Language classes.
Van Doren thinks undocumented students will take advantage of the change.
"We are not offering people employment. We are not offering people degrees," said Van Doren. "We are just offering them a way to study English."