Senate approves ‘tuition equality’ bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee residents who are authorized to be in the United States would be eligible for in-state tuition under legislation that has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga (SB612) was approved 21-12 on Thursday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Finance Committee.

Under the proposal, students considered lawfully present in the U.S. through a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would qualify for in-state tuition. Such students now pay nearly three times as much for higher education — the out-of-state rate — even if they’ve lived in Tennessee for most of their lives.

A previous version of the bill didn’t require DACA eligibility to qualify for in-state tuition. Eben Cathey with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition says the restriction means fewer people qualify but believes the legislation is a step in the right direction.