DENVER — Before the Auraria Campus in Denver opened in 1976, that part of town was a largely Hispanic neighborhood. Those neighbors were pushed to make room for the schools.
Back then, the campus made a promise to give free tuition to children and grandchildren of displaced Aurarians. That program began a couple of decades ago.
On Thursday, CU Denver, MSU Denver, and Community College of Denver expanded the scholarship program to all direct descendants of Aurarians who lived in the neighborhood from 1955 to 1973.
This land was the ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations.
Following a flood in 1965, the city began consideration of comprehensive urban redevelopment. They planned to clear Denver's oldest neighborhood and make it into an urban campus.
Money from the federal government to buy the land and relocate residents was matched by a bond Denver voters approved. Auraria's residents were forced to move, and the campus was completed in 1976.
Promises were made to provide free tuition to children and grandchildren of displaced Aurarians. Getting the money was difficult, though, for some people.
"They were subject to whatever policy the leadership of the institution was using at the time," CU Regent Nolbert Chavez said during the announcement Thursday.
All three schools on the campus hoped to ease those challenges by approving a policy that expands the scholarship program to all direct descendants of Aurarians. Undergrad and graduate students will have no restriction on how many classes they are able to take.
"It also tells the rest of the world how important we were to this campus, or are to this campus, and today we feel it," said Frances Torres, a former resident of the Auraria neighborhood.
Torres and her family lived on Ninth Street before residents were told to move. Their home is one of several that remain on campus.
"What the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship means to me is not only the promise being kept, but it's honoring our families for their sacrifice," Torres said.
This means free tuition that can help students like Paulina Sanchez-Trujillo get a degree. The 19-year-old is studying accounting.
"It is really nice to know that we can further our education and not have to worry about that financial burden," she said.
She's a sophomore, and she's already a recipient of the scholarship program. The announcement on Thursday will also pay for her master's degree.
"Even my kids can come to school and not have to worry about working so many jobs to fund for their schooling just so they can get ahead in life," she said.
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