NASHVILLE, April 5, 2017– An effort to provide in-state tuition for illegal aliens is advancing through the Tennessee General Assembly. Proponents of the legislation say it doesn’t cost our state a dime, but that’s not true. If the effort is successful, tax-payers will be on the hook in a major way.
In state tuition for 3 credit hours at MTSU is around $800. Out of state tuition for those same 3 credit hours is around $2800. However, the actual cost for MTSU to provide those 3 credit hours is around $1800.
Taxpayers subsidize around $1000 for each 3 credit hours. In fact, depending upon where a student attends college in TN, taxpayers subsidize in state tuition by covering anywhere between 25-75% of the actual cost of tuition. Folks, if it is subsidized by TN taxpayers, then it is a state benefit as defined by US code 1621.
If making an education more affordable for these students who are caught in a broken system is the goal or intent, then there already is a process. Our Governor has touted Western Governors University as an option for students to receive an education with little or no student debt. In fact, WGU-Tennessee even brags about “Little or no new student debt” on the front page of their website.
Additionally, the state of Tennessee offers an eCampus program. If one looks at the cost for 3 credit hours at MTSU, it costs $1569 which is significantly less than out of state tuition and even less than the actual cost for MTSU to provide 3 credit hours in the classroom.
If a student wants to pay even less, students can attend the University of Central Florida online. 3 credit hours for a non resident is $1149.
So understanding that state subsidized education is a state benefit and there are alternative affordable options at our universities that are supported by our Governor, as well as affordable options in other states, then why would we need to provide a state benefit to non-US citizens? Again, as I stated earlier, if the goal or intent is to help non-US citizen students who are caught in a broken system to have more affordable options for higher education, there are already options and the bill isn’t necessary.
One argument I keep hearing in favor of the bill is that many of these families are paying taxes in Tennessee. According to the Tax Foundation, the average Tennessee per capita state tax collection is $1924. The bill requires that a student attend a Tennessee high school for two years prior and graduate from a Tennessee high school. In Rutherford County, the cost to taxpayers is around $9000 per pupil. Therefore, even if both parents and the student are paying around $2000 per year in taxes($6000 total), it still costs taxpayers $3000 per year to provide an education.
Assuming the parents and student are paying $6000 in state taxes, only 42% of state taxes collected goes towards k-12 and higher education. That means that of that $6000, only $2500 goes towards education. If one assumed all of that went to higher education and zero dollars went to K-12, once a student took more than 9 hours per year at an in state rate at MTSU, taxpayers would still be picking up the tab as a state subsidized benefit.
I’ve met many of these students and there are in an unenviable position, often through no fault of their own. Additionally, out of state tuition is at a price point that is prohibitive to many students, not just non-US citizens.
However, the bottom line is that we have an oath of office that states “that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this state.” Providing a state benefit at taxpayer expense to non-US citizens is injurious to the people of Tennessee, and providing in state tuition, especially when there are alternatives, most definitely lessens and abridges the rights and privileges of Tennesseans.
Rep. Bryan Terry