Tuition equality closer to reality

By Manon Lane

Advocates with TIRRC listen to deliberations on the Senate floor

Advocates with TIRRC listen to deliberations on the Senate floor

Two students from Trevecca joined the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition in the upper gallery of the Senate Thursday to witness the fate of tuition equality in Tennessee.

The bill passed the Senate with a 21-12 vote. If the bill passes in the House, it will enable qualifying immigrant students without legal status, to pay in-state tuition at Tennessee Board of Regents schools.

“Today, it hasn’t hit me that it’s actually happening,” said Jazmin Ramirez, freshman at Trevecca. “Regardless of whether the bill passes, there will be tears; sad tears or happy tears.”

Trevecca freshman Jazmin Ramirez stands outside Senate chambers

Trevecca freshman Jazmin Ramirez stands outside Senate chambers

The group spent the last two days revisiting Legislative Plaza to tell their story to legislators, and answer any of their questions.

Kim Gonzales is a sophomore at Trevecca who has also been advocating for tuition equality.

“It’s tough for me, just figuring out where I’m going to find money to go to school,” said Gonzales. “I just can’t imagine how much harder it is for other people who are undocumented, that are wanting to make something of themselves by going to school.”

Wearing graduation caps and gowns, they joined the other advocates handing out information on the bill to delegates as they entered the Senate chambers.

Senator Janice Bowling is handed information on the bill as she enters Senate Chambers

Senator Janice Bowling is handed information on the bill as she enters Senate Chambers

The group then headed upstairs to the gallery and waited as the bill was introduced on the Senate floor.

After the vote, lawmakers commended area students for their work on the bill.

“I speak on behalf of those that cannot speak for themselves,” said Senator Sara Kyle. “I’m so very proud of them and their efforts, and I thank Senator Gardenhire for bringing this.”

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