Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd takes full credit for the “Drive to 55” higher education umbrella initiative which includes programs like the Tennessee Promise scholarship, but has made no definitive statement to date about whether illegal immigrants should be permitted access to this benefit or in-state college tuition.
Boyd, however, is a named member of an organization that pushes state and local policymakers to support giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students and he has used his philanthropy to help expand an entrepreneurship program whose services are available to illegal aliens.
He is also a board member of the “College Promise Campaign” which wants a universal and free entitlement for the first two years of a higher education. The board is led by the president of the leftist Joyce Foundation and honorary chair Dr. Jill Biden, wife of former Vice-President Joe Biden. A briefing book for state leaders posted on the College Promise website, Making Public Colleges Tuition Free, includes a reference to the “alternative application for undocumented students” used by two states for their college promise scholarships.
Boyd also has six state legislators working to get him elected as governor, four of whom voted to give illegal immigrant students access to in-state college tuition. Senators Richard Briggs and Becky Duncan-Massey and Reps. Kent Calfee and Eddie Smith all voted for the 2015 in-state tuition bill that passed the Senate but failed in the House by a single vote.
Rep. John Ragan and Cameron Sexton who are also supporting Randy Boyd, voted against the bill.
A similar bill in 2017, HB863/SB1014, failed in a House Education Committee, again by a single vote and then stalled in the Senate. Rep. Eddie Smith voted against this bill.
Smith, however, chose to support the other in-state tuition bill, HB660/SB635, which is expected to pass on the Senate floor in 2018. After failing to pass on a tie vote in the Education Committee, bill sponsor, Rep. Mark White, requested to defer the bill to 2018.
In 2015, state legislators were willing to violate constitutional boundaries, the federal “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act”and Tenneessee’s 2012 “Eligibility Verification for Entitlements Act” to try and give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. In 2017, state legislators also insisted that unless the “estimated 13,000” illegal immigrant students were given in-state tuition, the goals of “Drive to 55” could not be met.
Boyd’s website says he created the “Drive to 55” initiative.
The 2014 statute establishing the Tennessee Promise last dollar scholarship includes a provision easily read to allow flexibility in meeting qualifying criteria based on “extenuating circumstances” including perhaps the alternative application for undocumented immigrants referenced in the College Promise report. Tennessee Promise scholarship applicants are required to be a “resident” of the state as defined by Tennessee’s colleges and universities, which HB660/SB635 would allow them to include illegal immigrants. This is the bill that will be voted on in 2018.