Nashville - Today, the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee passed a bill that would extend in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet certain criteria. HB675 passed the committee with an amendment on a voice vote, moving the bill forward to the full Education Administration and Planning Committee. The Senate bill (SB612) will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow, after passing the Senate Education Committee earlier this month.
The vote comes on the heels of TIRRC's Tuition Equality Day on the Hill last Wednesday, where more than 150 undocumented students filled the capitol to advocate for the bill. 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.
As originally introduced the bill would require individuals to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for in-state tuition, including spending 3 years at a Tennessee high school and graduating high school or obtaining a high school equivalency from the state of Tennessee, regardless of immigration status. The bill as amended would instead offer in-state tuition to undocumented students who are considered "lawfully present" after being granted deferred action through the federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). While we are disappointed by the exclusion of Tennessee youth who do not qualify for DACA, leaving higher education out of reach for so many undocumented students in Tennessee, we are encouraged by the movement on the issue and the House Education Subcommittee taking this important step towards increasing access and equity for immigrant students in Tennessee.
The following is a statement from Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director of the TIRRC:
“We applaud the leadership of Chairman White and the members of the committee who voted to extend access to in-state tuition to undocumented graduates. We still have a long way to go before tuition equality becomes a reality in Tennessee, but today we celebrate with our youth members as the bill takes another big step forward."
The following is a statement from Carlos Reyes, TIRRC member and Dreamer:
“When I graduate from high school, I want to go to college to become an anesthesiologist, but I'm worried I won't be able to afford tuition because I'll have to pay three times as much. Every time this bill moves forward, I'm one step closer to realizing my dreams."