Florida House Bill 851, passed into law in July 2014, allows eligible Florida high school graduates to pay in-state college tuition rates regardless of their or their parents’ immigration status. According to a new report by the Florida College Access Network, 2,475 students utilized the out-of-state tuition waiver to attend 31 different state colleges and universities in Florida in the first year since the law became effective. The cost of out-of-state tuition is, on average, more than double that of in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities.
“Passing the tuition equity bill has significantly eased the financial barriers for thousands of Florida high school graduates in just one year. We need to ensure that all eligible students are aware of this resource and have access to the supports best-poised to ensure their college success,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s Associate Director for Research and Policy.
The colleges most attended by students using the out-of-state tuition waiver during the 2014-15 academic year were Palm Beach State College (389), Broward College (370), Florida International University (370), Valencia College (309) and Miami Dade College (243). A complete list of institutions with enrollment figures are included in an interactive data dashboard released today by Florida CAN.
Although these one-year results are promising, there are likely many more students who do not know about the tuition waiver or have difficulty accessing the application. Florida CAN recommends streamlining the process by replacing the waiver application with a simple modification to the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA). By adding a single question to the FFAA, students can more easily determine their eligibility for in-state tuition rates. The change would also save colleges time in processing the application; currently, each college is responsible for creating, processing and posting on its website its own version of the waiver form.
Florida CAN also recommends tracking the retention and graduation rates of students utilizing the waiver. Because undocumented students are not eligible for federal and state financial aid, they are less likely to enroll in college full time and are more likely to find themselves in financial stress than many of their peers. Tracking their retention and graduation rates can inform future policy decisions impacting such students.