DENVER - Immigrant students living in the U.S. illegally will now qualify for in-state tuition at Colorado colleges.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the proposal into law Monday afternoon at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, saying it was a first step toward national immigration reform. About 200 students, lawmakers and school officials watched.

"We're opening the door; you guys are going to have to do all the work. That's the way the system works," Hickenlooper said. "We're going to get you into class, give you the opportunity, then your hard work is going to complete the transaction. This first step is going to be the first step to national immigration reform."

Colorado is the fourteenth state to allow immigrants who graduate from state high schools to attend colleges at the lower tuition rate. The out-of-state rate Colorado immigrants have been paying is sometimes more than three times higher than the in-state rate.

The signing comes a decade after lawmakers first tried to pass the measure, which in the past has been opposed by both parties. This year, Democrats unanimously supported the bill and a handful of Republicans joined them.