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Tenn. lawmakers look at in-state tuition changes

BY LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press

NASHVILLE - Supporters of legislation to make students in the country illegally eligible for in-state tuition say the proposal is fair and would benefit Tennessee's economy.

The measure, called the Tuition Equality bill, was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday.

Currently, such students 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.

"We can't keep punishing children for what their parents did or didn't do," said Senate sponsor Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has also signed onto the bill.

Under the proposal, a student would have to meet academic standards and attend Tennessee schools for at least five years before graduating from high school.

Proponents of the legislation say it would benefit the state with increased funding from in-state tuition and, they hope, produce more graduates who can contribute to the workforce.

"Every time a student pays in-state tuition, the state makes money, higher education makes money," said Eben Cathey, spokesman for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "All around, this bill is a net gain for the entire state."

Monica Greppin-Watts is the spokeswoman for the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

She said the bill would have a "positive fiscal note because it could bring students into our institutions who most likely would not have previously enrolled."

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