As two bills extending in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born children whose parents are undocumented await a series of committee votes on the Hill, the Nashville Chamber board is officially adding the issue to their legislative agenda.
The annual cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be as much as $8,000 for a public university in our region. The proposed legislation aligns with the Chamber’s policy principles of increasing the number of postsecondary degrees in the region and immigration-related reforms that address workforce needs.
Haslam said this week the concept has "merit," but has yet to say whether he'll offer his support.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he is considering bills extending in-state tuition to U.S.-born students of undocumented immigrants and children illegally brought to the country, but cast doubt on including them in his free community college plan.
Haslam and his office will consider and evaluate the impact of two bills moving through the legislature allowing students who have lived in the state for five years and have good grades or ACT scores to attend college at the in-state tuition rate, he said.
“I think it’s an idea that has some merit. I really do,” Haslam told reporters Wednesday.
But he said he sees a problem with extending that offer to his “Tennessee Promise” proposal, which offers last-dollar scholarships allowing graduating high schoolers to attend two-years community colleges or technical schools for free.
Metro Schools Director Jesse Register sent a letter to the governor last week praising the “Tennessee Promise” but urged the governor to add in undocumented immigrants and U.S.-born children of immigrants in the country illegally.
Haslam's plan as proposed requires students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a document that requires a social security number that undocumented students do not have. That's a problem, said Haslam, and taking that requirement out of his plan would mean “a very different financial situation for the state,” he said.
“Part of the idea to make this affordable for the state is that everybody goes out and applies and gets every bit of financial aid they can and then we fill in the last dollar. Without that, it’s a very different financial proposition for the state," said Haslam who pointed to the active legislation on the Hill as a way to address Register's concerns.
Treasurer David Lillard can't yet vouch on whether the math works on the governor's free community college program, reports WPLN.
So do the numbers add up? Lillard says “no comment.” Even though he oversees the lottery reserve funds in question, he hasn’t been closely consulted by the governor.
“I don’t think that’s unusual at this point in time and all,” he said Thursday. “But as the bill works its way through the General Assembly, I’m sure I’ll be consulted by members of the legislature about it.”a
Asked why the treasurer has been relatively out of the loop, a spokesman for the Haslam Administration said a meeting was set up for Friday. He added this: “We feel good about the math.”
While excited about his pending promise for high school graduates to get free access to community colleges, Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s open to negotiation over exactly what that program should look like.
He said he’s been peppered with questions and concerns over the last four days since announcing his “Tennessee Promise” plan, like how this would effect four-year schools, how the costs would work over time and ensuring the quality of community colleges.
“Some very fair questions are already brought up about that. We welcome most of the debate and the discussion about how to make our proposal better,” he told he told a room of reporters, editors and publishers Thursday at an event hosted by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association in Nashville.
As proposed, the program would first kick in for the high school class of 2015, covering their tuition and fees left over after students have applied to federal grants. Funding would come from the state’s lottery reserve fund and be invested in an endowment.
Haslam later elaborated about the program, telling reporters he’s open to changes in the details so long as the legislature sticks to the bottom line.
“We’re open to ideas that might improve it as long this idea — that we can say that every Tennessean, that you can have two years of community college free — as long as that can happen, we’re really committed to seeing this work through,” he said.
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS