Dozens of students, allies and members of the immigrant community in Tennessee on Tuesday asked state lawmakers to support a pair of bills that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities.
The bills, SB1951 and HB1992, are being discussed in the education committees of the Senate and lower house of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, which since 2012 has been coordinating the “Tuition Equality Now” campaign, estimates that some 14,000 undocumented students, including those who have qualified for Deferred Action, could benefit from the measure.
“We’re very optimistic that the bills can pass, which indicates that Tennessee is going in the right direction to show itself to be a state that welcomes immigrants,” TIRRC spokesperson Eben Cathey told Efe on Tuesday.
Currently, undocumented students pay almost triple the tuition that in-state residents do even if they have lived all their lives in Tennessee.
“Today we’re going to present our case about why it’s beneficial to allow students to continue their university education and the economic benefits they can contribute to the state with the creation of jobs,” Cathey said.
These proposals arose after GOP Gov. Bill Haslam launched an initiative seeking to increase the number of university graduates.
Haslam is proposing to offer the first two years of college free to high school graduates.