TIRRC Members Celebrate as Tuition Equality Bill Passes Senate Education Committee 

Nashville - Today, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would extend in-state tuition to students who meet certain criteria, regardless of immigration status.SB612/HB675 passed the committee by a vote of 6-2-1. Senators Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Gresham, Haile, and Tate voted to move the bill forward to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means committee after an amendment was adopted to require that students meet certain academic criteria in order to qualify.

While we are disappointed by the inclusion of the academic requirements, which will leave higher education out of reach for so many undocumented students in Tennessee, we are encouraged by the movement on the issue and the Senate committee taking the first step to increasing access and equity for immigrant students in Tennessee.

For the past three years, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and our members across the state have worked tirelessly on the campaign for tuition equality by organizing undocumented students and building a coalition that includes businesses, education institutions, and community supporters. TIRRC members filled the room as the committee members cast their votes. 

The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the TIRRC:

“We applaud the leadership of Senator Gardenhire and the members of the committee who voted to extend access to in-state tuition to undocumented graduates. We have a long way to go before tuition equality is a reality for students in Tennessee, but today’s vote is a step in the right direction.”

The following is a statement from Diana Montero, TIRRC member and Dreamer:

“Even though this bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, the Senate Education committee took an incredible step forward in helping young people like me pay a fair price for college.”


Tuition Equality Legislation Introduced, Gives Hope to 25,000 Undocumented Youth

Tuesday, February 11th, 2015
Contact: Eben Cathey 615.775.1069

Nashville - Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) have introduced legislation to exempt certain students from payment of out-of-state tuition rates at public universities (SB0612/HB0675), regardless of immigration status. If passed, this legislation would make college a possibility for thousands of undocumented youth across Tennessee.

Under current policy, undocumented students are not eligible for in-state tuition rates and must pay more than three times as much as their classmates to attend a public college or university, no matter how long they've lived in Tennessee. A similar bill was introduced in 2014 by Senator Gardenhire and former Representative Floyd. During last year's campaign, the bill garnered support from institutions throughout Tennessee, like the University of Memphis, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Twenty other states have realized the economic and societal benefits of offering in-state tuition to undocumented students, and as Tennessee embarks on the Governor's bold Drive to 55 initiative, tuition equality is needed now more than ever.

The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), the organization that has led the campaign for tuition equality since 2012:

"For years, immigrant youth and their allies across Tennessee have been campaigning for tuition equality and now we are closer than ever. We are hopeful that DREAMers in the Class of 2015 will be able to walk across the graduation stage with greater access to higher education. We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Gardenhire and Representative White and look forward to working with them to pass this common-sense legislation in the 2015 session."