Just as New York becomes the largest state to offer free tuition to all college students attending state schools, a Tennessee state house panel has eliminated funding that might be used by undocumented students to help pay for college.
The conservative website freedomfirst.news reports that It was a close 7-6 vote. But does it sends a message to young people that they are not welcome, even if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents or born here to undocumented immigrants? And if so, is that a message that we want to send as Americans?
After the vote, representative Mark White of Memphis, who co-authored the failed bill to extend tuition assistance to undocumented students, said “They’re graduating high school alongside our sons and daughters, only to find they can’t go on. They have dreams of a better life through education.”
He went on to say that they may be here “through no fault of their own.”
The bill would have helped approximately thirteen thousand undocumented students in Tennessee. Basically all the bill did was to extend discounted, “in-state” tuition rates to undocumented students, who would still be responsible for covering the rest of the fees themselves.
Representative Dawn White, was an outspoken opponent of the bill saying that “We’re going to become a magnet in the Southeast if we allow this legislation. Right is right and wrong is wrong and I can’t pass the burden along to the taxpayers of Tennessee.
Appealing to voter fears, she claimed that it was because of illegal immigration that Rutherford County, Tennessee has to build a new school every year to keep up with population growth.
The Tennessee State College System and Governor Bill Haslam had endorsed the bill.
In comments denouncing the vote, Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Stephanie Teatro says “These hard-working Tennessee high school students are just asking for an opportunity to go to college. Who benefits when legislators close the door and limit their potential? Denying these students a chance to go to college is short-sighted, mean-spirited and a betrayal of our values.”
Under current Tennessee law, students who entered the country illegally are not barred from attending state schools. However, they are required to pay “out-of-state” tuition, which can be as much as three times what in-state fees would be, even if they were raised in Tennessee and graduated from schools within the state.
Supporters of the failed bill point out that making it impossible for these students to attend state colleges for higher educational opportunities, in effect squanders the investments made in them by the state at the primary and secondary education level.
While they are permitted to attend state colleges, undocumented students are not eligible for any federal or state financial assistance. All this bill would do is reduce the tuition they would be required to pay, and would not cost taxpayers any additional money.
What do you think about this move? Is Tennessee drawing a line in the sand to reduce illegal immigration, or is it cutting off its nose to spite its face? Please share your thoughts with us here.