CCU Appeals Federal District Court Ruling in Student Aid Case

Today, Colorado Christian University appealed a recent federal district court decision denying state student aid to its students. "We believe that the state is violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments by penalizing students who choose to attend a faith-centered liberal arts university," said CCU President Bill Armstrong.

On May 18, Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled against CCU in its lawsuit against officials with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE).

CCU filed the lawsuit against CCHE officials in 2004, challenging their exclusion of its students from a series of state-funded college tuition grants for Colorado students. These grants permit students to use the funds for tuition at "approved" institutions of higher education. Among those presently "approved" are Regis University, the University of Denver, the Art Institute of Colorado, Colorado Technical University, Denver Automotive and Diesel, and the University of Colorado.

In this list of "approved" institutions, which includes most colleges and universities in the state, CCU is a glaring omission--even though the University has long been fully accredited and offers a broad range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, education, humanities, sciences, music, theology, counseling, and other subjects.

Although CCHE acknowledged that CCU "meets all academic accreditation and financial criteria," the University was not "approved" because it was deemed to be "pervasively sectarian." Applying this test is, in the opinion of the University, "blatant religious discrimination" and violates the U.S. Constitution. Joining CCU in this position was the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting CCU's position.

"The effect of the ruling is to say that Colorado students will be denied state tuition aid for college if they want to attend a seriously religious school," Armstrong pointed out. "The trial court's decision is a setback for the students involved and for religious liberty. In our opinion, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education is violating the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of religious liberty and equal treatment, and we are optimistic that the Tenth Circuit will reverse the decision and order CCHE officials to stop discriminating against CCU and its students," concluded President Armstrong.