A Colorado bill was signed into law to address a major inequity: qualification for in-state tuition. Now RPCVs will qualify regardless of where they lived prior to their service.
By the RPCVs of Colorado
In March of 2021, National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) highlighted the work done by the Peace Corps community in Maryland to pass a law to give in-state tuition to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) in their state. This story inspired Sarah LaBounty (Romania 2011–13) to contact her state representative about passing similar legislation. On April 11, 2023, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law to grant all RPCVs, regardless of where they lived prior to their service, to receive in-state tuition in Colorado.
Prior to this law, Colorado required one year of residency to receive in-state tuition. When Volunteers returned from their two years of overseas service, they no longer met this requirement. One life-long Coloradan was told by a university that he was a resident of no state after his service. Volunteers across the country who wish to continue their education are being penalized for their service to their country. Colorado offers in-state tuition to many worthy groups including veterans, members of the National Guard, and Native Americans with tribal ties to Colorado, among others. Peace Corps Volunteers deserve to be included in this list, and now they are thanks to the dedicated work of members of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado (RPCVCO) and the co-sponsors of this bill.
“Sarah was essential to getting this legislation passed – starting with reaching out to her local representative, connecting with other local RPCVs, coordinating research on possible impact, suggesting edits to the language for the legislation, testifying, and keeping everyone updated on the progress of the legislation”
— Suzanne Smith, Former RPCVCO Advocacy Chair
“Sarah was essential to getting this legislation passed – starting with reaching out to her local representative, connecting with other local RPCVs, coordinating research on possible impact, suggesting edits to the language for the legislation, testifying, and keeping everyone updated on the progress of the legislation,” said Suzanne Smith (Mongolia 2005–07), former Advocacy Chair for RPCVCO. Sarah, along with other local RPCVs, testified before the Colorado State Senate and House Education Committees to advocate for this legislation and share their stories of having to wait to continue their education until they could establish residency. They also highlighted the value RPCVs bring to Colorado including their commitment to public service, persistence, cross-cultural skills, and resilience.
“The hope is that in-state tuition will encourage returning Peace Corps Volunteers to seek graduate programs here in Colorado,” said Colorado State Representative Judy Amabile (D), who co-sponsored the bill in the House. “Not only is this a great way to thank those who have given so much in service to our country and the world, but our Colorado universities will be made richer by their enrollment.” The bipartisan bill was also co-sponsored by Representative Matt Soper (R), and Senators Dylan Roberts (D) and Paul Lundeen (R). The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and had only four dissenting votes in the House.
“We see this as a statewide win not only for our current community, but for those who have yet to complete service and move to Colorado.”
— Samantha Temple, RPCVCO President
“We see this as a statewide win not only for our current community, but for those who have yet to complete service and move to Colorado,” said RPCVCO President Samantha Temple. “And, we hope that as an organization we can help Colorado universities connect with returning Volunteers to see the full benefit of this legislation.”
“We congratulate Colorado as the latest state to set a standard of how to recognize and honor Peace Corps Volunteers for their service,” said NPCA President & CEO Dan Baker. “We thank the sponsors who guided this legislation to passage, Governor Polis for signing the bill into law, and the dedicated members of the RPCVS of Colorado for being a strong voice of support for the next generation of volunteers.”
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