In-state tuition bill fails in Senate committee


LITTLE ROCK — A measure that would grant in-state college tuition for undocumented students failed Wednesday to get the endorsement of the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, sponsor of Senate Bill 915, said later she was not sure if she would try to run the bill again.

Originally, SB 915 would have made anyone who attends high school in Arkansas for at least three years and graduates or receives a general education diploma eligible to pay the in-state tuition rate at a state higher education institution.

Elliott amended the bill to allow each state college or university to set its own criteria for the less expensive in-state rates. She said she decided to amend the measure after she realized she didn’t have support for her original proposal.

The committee voted 3-3 for the bill Wednesday, with five votes needed for an endorsement. Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, the committee chairman, was a co-sponsor on the bill but did not vote. Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who Elliott had indicated would support the amended bill, was sick and did not attend the meeting.

Elliott said she was disappointed.

“This is it,” she said, adding that she felt she was out of ideas. “That’s all I’ve got to offer, and even that is not narrow enough for that committee to vote for.”

Last week, during an open discussion of the bill in the Senate, Randy Zook, president of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas, said the state’s largest business lobbying organization supported the bill. University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel Anderson also urged the Senate to support the measure.