House panel spurns in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants

By a one-vote margin, a  House committee today shot down legislation that would grant in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students who have graduated from Tennessee high schools. Seven members of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee members voted against HB660; six for it.

A similar bill passed the Senate last year but failed on the House floor by one vote.

From the Times-Free Press report:

Prior to the vote, the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, passionately argued for the issue, saying there are an estimated 13,000 students in Tennessee K-12 schools who were brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents “through no fault of their own.”

“They’re graduating [high school] alongside our sons and daughters,” White said, only to “find they can’t go on. They have dreams of a better life through education.”

He argued his belief that it is “a basic conservative Republican position” to provide support for those “willing to get up and go to work or better their life.”

The students wouldn’t be getting a free ride, White said, noting they would simply be paying college and university tuition at in-state rates instead of the out-of-state rates the students now face.

…Rep. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, argued against the bill, warning, “we’re going to become a magnet in the Southeast if we allow this legislation.”

The vote came a day after the legislature’s Conservative Majority Caucus held a news conference outside the the House chamber to denounce the bill.

From The Tennessean’s report on that gathering:

Flanked by a dozen Republican members of the House, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, decried the legislation… (saying) “Our state cannot afford to subsidize public college tuition for illegal aliens nor should it.”

The Tennessee Board of Regents… has endorsed the Republican legislation because it lowers the barrier to entry of higher education at a time when the state is trying to boost college enrollment. Undocumented students must currently pay out-of-state tuition to attend a public college.

 To be eligible, students would have to graduate from a Tennessee high school. Many of the eligible students entered the country illegally as young children and grew up calling Tennessee home.

Matheny does not share the board’s beliefs.

“They were brought in by an irresponsible act, and unfortunately they have to pay the inconvenient consequences of that act,” he said.

UPDATE/NOTE: After the bill’s defeat, Gov. Bill Haslam told The Tennessean he supports the measure and would like to see it revived.

“I was disappointed, obviously…It was a bill that we have supported that we think is the right thing to do… When you’re for something that loses you obviously hope it has a chance to win again sometime in the future… Who knows what the environment will be then.”

4 Responses to House panel spurns in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants

  • David A. Collins says:

    Let me get this straight, instead of the state collecting whatever the in-state tuition rate from these students, the state will collect NOTHING from these students who cannot afford the out-of-state rate. I guess no one should be surprised at this reaction. These people are obviously scared of education because it would appear that they themselves never got one. This legislature is just one embarrassment after another. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!!!!!!

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      On the contrary, WISE, WISE, WISE! The legislators who voted “no” realize that anything that makes it easier for, or appears to invite, illegal aliens to settle in Tennessee entails far more costs to the citizens of Tennessee than the comparative pittance that we could expect to receive from the handful of students here illegally who can afford the instate tuition but just can’t quite come up with the out-of-state fee.

      Oh the joy of having a Republican super-majority in the legislature so that even if there are all too many foolish Republicans on a given issue the interests of the citizens of Tennessee still prevails.

  • Stuart Anderson better do his homework. On issue after issue–such as Insure Tennessee and support of the Affordable Care Act, or the right for anyone to carry concealed weapons on campus, or to give public tax money to failing charter schools (and there are plenty of them), or to maintain the deteriorating road system in TN (once viewed as the Nation’s best), the super Republican majority have voted time and again against issues supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Go read the polling data. The interests of the citizens of Tennessee clearly do not prevail, thanks to the mindless and ill-informed opposition of the super majority. This decision on in-state tuition is just one more in the super majority’s Hall of Shame.

  • Vicki Gray says:

    This is a tragedy for justice to children who have work so hard and in many cases, have participated on championship winning sports teams. Not educating these bright young people is a disservice to everyone. Has anyone looked at the number of food service and entry level health care positions that are vacant, not to mention the number of small businesses that go out of business due to their inability to obtain labor. Young Americans do not want to mow lawns, change a frail senior’s bed in a nursing home or any number of entry level, low paying, low benefits positions. But then, I guess they don’t have to since their parents can keep them on their insurance until they are 26, which in my day was considered a grown person with grown people responsibilities.

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