State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) filed bill SB2263 Thursday which would grant in-state tuition discount benefits to illegal alien students.
Dubbed ‘Tuition Opportunity,’ the measure was unsurprisingly co-sponsored by the Chattanooga-area lawmaker’s friend and ally, State Representative Mark White (R-Memphis), who filed HB2429, a state house version of the same bill. The bills’ summary reads:
Education, Higher – As introduced, exempts certain students from paying out-of-state tuition at state institutions of higher education. – Amends TCA Section 4-58-102; Title 49, Chapter 7; Title 49, Chapter 8 and Title 49, Chapter 9.
This year will be the fourth time the duo has sought to extend the education benefits. In 2015, the proposal passed the state Senate and failed in the state House by a single vote. Gardenhire and White tried again in 2016, where is failed to pass out of committee, despite and emotion discussion leading up to the vote.
Last year, in 2017, they tried yet again, and the proposal did not make out it of committee.
Nashville-based refugee, immigrant, and illegal alien advocacy group, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refuge Rights Coalition (TIRRC) celebrated the bill’s introduction with a statement:
For months, we’ve been fighting to defend DACA and to fight for Dream Act to pass in Congress. Our members have been joined in this campaign by Tennesseans from all walks of life who believe that undocumented youth who’ve grown up in Tennessee belong in our communities and are #HereToStay.
That’s why today we filed a bill in the state legislature to grant in-state tuition to undocumented students. Immigrant youth who’ve grown up in Tennessee and graduated from our schools deserve a fair shot to enroll in college, follow their dreams, and contribute to their communities.
Since 2012, the Tuition Opportunity campaign has been led by visionary, courageous, and relentless undocumented youth. They’ve organized their peers, educators, and built a broad coalition of supporters that has included Governor Haslam, Tennessee Farm Bureau, Chambers of Commerce, Tennessee Board of Regents, and the University of Tennessee, among others.
Support amongst Tennessee voters has steadily increased since we launched the campaign. A December 2017 Vanderbilt poll found that 72% of Tennesseans favor granting undocumented students the opportunity to pay in-state tuition, up 6 points from only a year ago. It’s clear our momentum is building.
We believe that we can win this year and that the Class of 2018 will be the first class to graduate with Tuition Opportunity.
But, we know it won’t be easy. Just like you’ve been standing with us and fighting for the Dream Act, we’ll need your help to pass Tuition Opportunity. Stay tuned for calls to action and ways to engage your representatives. In the meantime, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to fuel our youth organizing that fuels powerful campaigns for Tuition Opportunity and the Dream Act.
However, Tennessee Star / Triton polling consistently shows that Tennessee Republicans solidly opposed of extending any more benefits to non-citizens to reside in the state. As The Star previously reported:
In the six months between the June 2017 Tennessee Star Poll and the December 2017 Tennessee Star Poll, opposition to in-state tuition for illegal immigrant students among likely Tennessee Republican primary voters has actually increased–from 84 percent to 88 percent–while support has decreased–from 11 percent to 6 percent.