During a campaign stop in Memphis on April 25th, Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd defended voluntarily joining the College Promise Advisory Board, which was tied at the time of his joining to then-President Obama. When he’s asked the question about his participation with this board, he insists that “President Obama didn’t appoint me to anything” and “we’re [the Board] not promoting tuition for illegals.”
Two things are not true about that. First of all, President Obama didn’t appoint me to anything I created the Tennessee Promise and then there’s a group of other people who said you know other states would like to do this too. Would you be willing to join us? It’s a non-profit organization. Not anything President Obama has anything to do with. They asked if I would join the board and let other states know about our program.
And frankly, I’m proud of Tennessee and I want us to be first but I don’t mind sharing with Indiana. I’ve met with people in Indiana, in Oregon, with people in multiple states that are also interested in doing what we’ve done and want to do the same thing in their states.
But it’s a non-profit and President Obama didn’t appoint me.
When Boyd gets to the second part of the question he adds, “and we’re not promoting tuition for illegals,” after which he remembers to tag on his scripted talking points about how he’s opposed to illegal immigration and sanctuary cities.
The Tennessee Star first reported in March about Boyd’s membership on the College Promise Advisory Board whose launch was announced by then President Obama in a September 2015 press release from the White House as part of Obama’s push for a tuition-free community college education.
The national College Promise Advisory Board, like other projects of Civic Nation, helped leverage the Obama Administration’s agenda on a variety of issues including the effort to expand access to community colleges. Virtually all of the “campaigns” listed by Civic Nation include a quote or reference to either of the Obamas or the Bidens.
Civic Nation is led by former Obama campaign field directors. Jenn Brown, executive director of Civic Nation, has a long association with organizing for Obama and other progressive/social justice groups:
Jenn was the Field Director for the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2012. There she oversaw 650 staff and 120 offices. Before moving to Ohio, Jenn managed nine states in the 2010 midterm election as the Mid-Atlantic & Ohio Valley Director for Organizing for America. Jenn moved into that role after serving as the Minnesota State Director for Organizing for America in 2009 and a Regional Field Director for the Obama campaign in Ohio in 2008. Prior to being involved in political campaigns, Jenn worked at several social justice organizations, including Vote Hope, the Center for Progressive Leadership and the United States Student Association.
Jason Waskey, president of Civic Nation since 2015, was the Maryland state director from 2009 – 2012 for the Obama for America campaign.
The College Promise board is led by the president of the leftist Joyce Foundation, Ellen Alberding and honorary chairs Dr. Jill Biden, wife of former Vice-President Joe Biden and a former Wyoming governor, James Geringer.
According to Huffington Post’s, White House reporter, the College Promise Advisory Board was an administration initiative as laid out by Obama during his speech at Macomb Community College:
The president attended the event with Jill Biden, a community college professor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier in the day, the White House announced that she will chair the administration’s new College Promise Advisory Board with Jim Geringer, a former Republican governor of Wyoming.
As to Boyd’s insistence that the Board is “not promoting tuition for illegals,” its website (“Who will your Promise Program serve?), does not hide the College Promise campaign’s inclusion of illegal immigrants in the group of students who can be included in programs that access the free education dollars:
Who will your Promise program serve? Promise programs use specific eligibility and persistence criteria to determine which students the program will serve and benchmarks for continuation in the program. Some common criteria include: … Citizenship: These programs take into account a student’s citizenship status. Some programs are explicitly limited to U.S. citizens, while others include residents of the locality or state, including undocumented students.
A briefing book provided by the College Promise board, Making Public Colleges Tuition Free, reinforces the inclusion of illegal immigrants in state college promise programs like Tennessee Promise, referencing the “alternative application for undocumented students” used by two states for their tuition scholarship programs.
Boyd used his answer to the College Promise Advisory Board question to again claim he is opposed to in-state college tuition rates being awarded to illegal alien students in Tennessee.
Despite what he say now, while Boyd was still ECD Commissioner, he worked behind the scenes to try and help bring back the failed 2015 in-state tuition bill during the 2017 legislative session.
A 2016 email exchange between Boyd and several of his staff at ECD provided to The Tennessee Star suggests that Boyd was trying to construct a positive fiscal impact argument to support awarding the state benefit of in-state tuition to students he called “undocumented,” a politically deceptive description typically employed by open border and illegal immigrant advocates.
Boyd’s efforts regarding the in-state tuition bill may be in response to discussion of the 2015 in-state tuition bill on the House floor when State Rep. John Ragan referenced the bill’s fiscal note that only 28 students would potentially benefit if the law was changed.
Per Boyd’s request for data to revive the bill, ECD’s Director of the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee (CERT) indicated that she would probe the Tennessee college systems estimate that only 28 “undocumented” students per year would take advantage of an in-state tuition rate if the bill was passed. She also suggested applying additional research and assumptions that could drive the estimated numbers higher.
The email exchange between Randy Boyd, Sally Haar, Director of CERT, Sammie Arnold, ECD’s chief legislative lobbyist, and Ted Townsend, ECD’s chief operating officer, which The Star has obtained and believes to be authentic, can be read below:
Boyd’s Tennessee Promise program is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” higher education initiative intended to “increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by the year 2025.” Boyd has publicly committed to complete the Drive to 55 goal based on the assumption that he could be in office for two terms.
Legislators and other proponents of the in-state tuition bill that would award the state benefit to illegal alien students have repeatedly used the argument that the Drive to 55 goals can only be achieved by enabling this population of students to have access to the lowered tuition rate.
Listen to Randy Boyd’s entire response: