In-state tuition bill advances from House subcommitee

Gov. Bill Haslam, Rep. Mark White, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire pose for a photo with supporters of offering in-state tuition for students whose parents brought them to country illegally as children. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A House subcommittee on Tuesday advanced a bill to offer instate tuition to students regardless of their immigration status as long as they have spent at least three years in a Tennessee high school.

The bill has the support of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who met with more than 100 students on the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday. Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) said the challenge will be to get his bill through the full Education Administration and Planning Committee, where a similar bill was narrowly defeated last year.

Here is a release from the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition: 

NASHVILLE – Today, the House Education Administration and Planning Sub-Committee voted to advance HB2429, a bill to grant in-state tuition to all students who spend at least three years in a Tennessee high school, regardless of their immigration status. 


The bill is sponsored by Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) and Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) who have been advocating for fair tuition for the past several years. Since 2012, TIRRC has led the statewide campaign to expand access to in-state tuition. Currently, undocumented students 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. 


The first vote on the bill happened during TIRRC’s Tuition Opportunity Day on the Hill. TIRRC mobilized more than 150 immigrant students and educators from across the state to the capitol today to share their stories and the urgency of expanding access to higher education to all Tennessee graduates, regardless of immigration status.


In meetings with more than 40 legislators, immigrant youth made the case for HB2429/SB2263 and urged their representatives to vote yes, opening the door for higher educations for thousands of students this fall. Before the committee cast their votes to advance HB2429, Governor Haslam reiterated his support for the bill while gathering with students for a photo outside of the Tennessee State Capitol. 


In addition to Governor Haslam, the bill is supported by several chambers of commerce and most of the state’s public and private universities. The Tennessee public overwhelmingly approves of legislation to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students, with nearly 72 percent expressing their support in a recent Vanderbilt poll.


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


“Today, immigrant youth from across Tennessee powerfully launched our campaign to pass the Tuition Opportunity bill and reminded legislators how much is at stake. We are encouraged by today’s vote and hope the legislature will move quickly to pass this bill and allow the thousands of students graduating from high school this spring the chance to follow their dreams.”


The following is a quote from TIRRC member Karla Meza (Knoxville):

“Tuition Opportunity is important to me and thousands of immigrant students raised in Tennessee. We deserve the opportunity to pursue higher education in the state we call home. We have been learning, growing, working, and building our lives here. Being able to pursue a higher education at the in-state rate would help us advance ourselves as well as our state.”


The following is a quote from TIRRC member Alondra Gomez (Chattanooga):

“My younger brother is one of the thousands of undocumented youth in TN who are excelling in the public education system. However, as his graduation approaches, he continues to find himself financially barred from a degree that would allow him to give back to the Chattanooga community that raised him. For the betterment of our state, elected officials should be making it easier for undocumented students to access a post-secondary education, not further enforcing the barriers that keep our communities from thriving.”


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