By Manon Lane
Today was an emotional day for advocates of tuition equality in Tennessee, as the House voted 49-47 against a bill that would have allowed immigrant students without legal status to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities.
The bill needed 50 votes to pass.
Members of Trevecca’s student body and staff have participated in advocating for the passage of the bill.
Trevecca freshman, Jazmin Ramirez was in House chambers for the vote this morning and said advocates for the bill felt confident of its passage based on pre-assessments.
However, as some legislators began making negative comments regarding the bill, and Representative Andy Holt started proposing new amendments, that confidence took a turn during an hour of deliberations.
“That was really nerve-racking when they kept voting on the amendments and everything, so it was really confusing at the same time.” said Ramirez. “I’m still at the process of trying to figure out exactly what it is that happened.”
The bill would allow qualifying immigrant students without legal status, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to receive in-state tuition at Tennessee state colleges and universities.
These students would not be eligible for state or federal grants and scholarships.
“It’s not about ‘oh, please let me go to school free,” said Trevecca senior Michael Chavarria who hopes that his younger siblings and members of his church won’t have the same struggle he did. “Just lower the bar so [they] can actually have hope to finish.”
Currently immigrant students without legal status must pay out-of-state tuition which can be three times the in-state amount, regardless of growing up in Tennessee and attending its public schools.
These students cannot get student loans to help pay tuition because they are not US citizens.
The bill passed the Senate last week with a 21-12 vote.
Chavarria asks that politicians look at the human side instead of the political side of the issue.
“The DREAMers, the kids that were brought here, look at the human side. Many kids see this country, as their country,” said Chavarria who explained that these students want to obtain a college degree to better themselves and the community they call home.