NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Graduation season is well underway for thousands
of families in Middle Tennessee. As many look ahead to furthering their
education, some students say they won't be given the same opportunities in
They've been in Tennessee's school system for years, but they won't be given
the chance to pay in-state tuition when it comes to going to college. As
undocumented students, they will have to pay out-of-state tuition if they want
to attend a Tennessee University, which can be three times the cost of in-state
It's an issue they're taking to the steps of one of Nashville's most notable
sights, the Parthenon in Centennial Park. Some of the undocumented students
that will be graduating this year had a separate ceremony beforehand. It wasn't
a celebration, rather a chance to raise awareness of the struggles they have
"It's hard not to give up hope when we have to pay so much more than
others, especially when we have to pay three times as much for college tuition,"
said one of the graduating seniors at the rally. "Many of us have the
potential to do great things; we just need to have the chance to prove
These students and their supporters believe that will hinder many from going
to college altogether and from making positive contributions to society.
Many of these undocumented students say they will not be attending a
Tennessee university, and they are looking elsewhere such as nearby Kentucky
that offers tuition discounts for qualifying students in their neighboring
"There are colleges who understand your cause. Seek them out with your
talents and your cause and your dollars. Congratulations on your success and do
not accept no for an answer, and always question why," says MNPS Associate
Superintendent Jay Steele.
Opponents of tuition equality say that allowing in-state tuition even for
undocumented students would essentially take away spots from documented
residents, and that it would set a bad precedent for immigration.
The National Conference of State Legislators reports 12 states including
Texas and California have laws allowing undocumented students to get in-state
As unforgiving as the law might seem, it appears it's equally
unlikely to ever change.
"Their parents made a bad decision to come here
illegally," said State Rep Debra Maggart, the incumbent for District 45. "And
unfortunately, their children have to pay that price sometimes. And I know that
seems cold-hearted, but we are a country that's based on the rule of law."
Maggart shared her sentiments with NewsChannel 5 on
Saturday along the campaign trail. She's being challenged for the Republican
nomination by Courtney Rogers, a former member of the Sumner County Tea Party.
"When you have out-of-state Americans that have to pay
out-of-state tuition, then how is it fair to choose someone that's here
illegally - but then, give them preferential treatment?? You're not only
picking winners and losers within our nation, but we're picking winners and
losers from outside," said Rogers.
Still, there is a third perspective among candidates.
Jeanette Jackson, a Democrat challenger vying for Maggart's seat, said she
supports a full-blown waiver for children of undocumented immigrants, when it
comes to paying out-of-state tuition.
Jackson said the children should not be held accountable
for the actions of their parents; and that those youngsters educated, publicly,
in grades K through 12 should also be allowed to continue and pursue higher