Tuesday, March 21, 2017

5 Reasons Why You Should Support Tuition Equality

Being a college basketball fanatic, this is by far my favorite time of year. It’s amazing watching these teams--each one composed of players from around the country, or even from around the world--come together as one unit and work together for a common purpose. The fans of each of the sixteen remaining NCAA tournament teams come from different backgrounds and have a plethora of life outlooks, yet they solidify as one unified group, proudly wearing their respective team’s colors showing their support.

While the United States continues to transform into an increasingly divided nation, Americans are becoming more proud to wear the colors red or blue. Like sports, most things in life transcend identifying with one color or the other. One of these issues that needlessly divides Americans is immigration. It’s easy to forget that we are a nation that is founded by immigrants; sadly, in this country’s relatively short history, there has always been an “evil” immigrant group who was forced to wear the opposing team’s jersey through no fault of their own--whether it was the Native Americans, the Irish Catholics, the Jews, the Japanese, the Hispanics, or the Muslims.

Being a public school teacher, it’s my job to teach the students in front of me, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or immigration status. The bottom line is that I teach people. I teach people with hopes and dreams of what they want to be when they grow up. I teach people who have no earthly idea what they want to be when they grow up.

Rep. Mark White of Memphis and Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga have co-sponsored a bill that absolutely needs to pass. HB0863/SB1014, which is up for a vote in the Senate on Wednesday, March 22nd, exempts an individual from paying out-of-state tuition if that individual: attended school in this state for two years prior to graduation from high school, graduated from high school or a home school program or obtained a GED, and is registered at a state institution of higher education. Here are my top five reasons why everyone needs to support this bill.
  1. It’s the right thing to do. This bill will allow my immigrant students to follow their dreams and pursue a college degree. The Bible is very clear about helping immigrants. One of my favorite scriptures regarding immigrants is from Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
  2. This is a bi-partisan bill. Staunchly conservative Texas was the first state to pass a tuition equality bill. In total, 27 states have passed a bill similar to the one that is proposed in Tennessee. Both blue states and red states support it. Why? That leads me to number 3.
  3. It’s good for our economy. Workers with a college degree make $1.3 million more in their lifetimes. More productivity means the state can collect more in taxes. Demand for educated workers is rising while supply is lagging behind.
  4. It’s great for our universities. An increase in admissions will provide income to universities that isn’t already there. Allowing undocumented immigrants access to in-state tuition will most certainly increase university graduation rates.
  5. Governor Haslam supports it and will sign it if it passes the legislature. In 2013, the governor launched Drive to 55, a campaign to increase the number of college graduates to 55% by 2025. Tuition Opportunity supports the governor's goal of reducing barriers to higher education and creating a more educated workforce.
Update: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee and has moved on to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. In the House, this bill is up for a vote on Tuesday, March 28th in the Education Administration & Planning Committee.

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