Bill to Fund Displaced Aurarian Scholarship on the Governor’s Desk

May 12, 2022

HB 1393, a bill to provide additional funding for the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship for descendants of Aurarians displaced by the development of the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) was passed by the Colorado House and Senate and is now on the Governor’s desk for consideration. The legislation would appropriate $2 million to be split among the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Community College of Denver to support Displaced Aurarian scholarships.  

CU Regent, Alum, Chief of External Initiatives, and former Colorado House Representative Nolbert Chavez provided testimony to the House State Affairs Committee to support HB 1393 on April 25. “All three institutions (on the Auraria Campus) recently came together to expressly make good on the promise and extend the eligibility of the scholarship beyond the children and grandchildren of those displaced,” he said. “It is the first step in honoring their sacrifice. I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who told us that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Today you have the power to support HB 1393 and help bend that moral arc a little closer to justice, and a future that you, and your descendants can be proud of.”   

First recognized in the 1990s, the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship program offered tuition-free education to residents, children, and grandchildren of Aurarian residents forced to relocate during construction of the AHEC amidst a period of urban renewal in the 1970s. Earlier, this land was part of the ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Ute nations. Since the inception of the scholarship, CU Denver has awarded more than $3.4 million in financial aid, enabling 600 displaced Aurarians and their descendants to attend the university tuition-free. MSU Denver has awarded $1.4 million for 305 students and, since 2006, CCD has awarded $627,815 for 136 students.  

On Nov. 4, 2021, the CU Board of Regents approved the expansion of the scholarship to offer free tuition to all direct decedents including adoptees of displaced Aurarians who lived in the neighborhood from 1955-1973. The resolution to expand the scholarship was commemorated at a ceremony held at St. Cajetan’s Church, attended by dozens of former Aurarians and descendants.  

Legislation to allocate funds for an expanded Displaced Aurarian Scholarship honors the legacies and sacrifices made by displaced Aurarians and bolsters CU Denver’s long-term commitment to providing an education to all direct descendants in perpetuity, Nolbert said. It reflects the university’s role as a Minority-Serving Institution and 2030 Strategic Plan goals of becoming an equity-serving institution and a university for life through serving and supporting Hispanic and Indigenous communities. 

In partnership with AHEC, the CU Denver community also has embarked on an initiative to preserve, renovate, and define usage for the remaining historic homes along Ninth Street. Chavez has been assigned to facilitate this critical project as we come together to build a more equitable, just, and inclusive future and prepare to celebrate CU Denver’s 50th anniversary in the coming academic year.