Recently, House Bill 851, which would qualify some undocumented students for in-state tuition rates, passed the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee with unanimous approval.  The move follows Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s announcement last month of his support for the proposed law. The Florida College Access Network applauds the lawmakers’ leadership and urges the passage of this bill.

Currently, the cost of out-of-state tuition makes higher education unattainable for many undocumented students. Out-of-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities are up to four times as high as in-state rates. At a four-year state university in Florida, residents pay an average of $6,155 a year in tuition compared to non-resident tuition of $21,434. Similarly, in-state tuition at a Florida two-year college costs residents an average of $3,124 a year compared to $11,531 for non-residents.

House Bill 851 would make in-state tuition rates available to undocumented high school graduates who attended a Florida high school for at least three consecutive years. Eligible students must apply for college within two years of high school graduation and provide documentation proving they reside in Florida. The bill additionally ensures that children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents are not denied classification as a Florida resident for tuition purposes due to their parents’ status.

“Florida students who grow up in this state and who work hard to advance their educations should receive the same access to affordable in-state tuition as their peers, regardless of where they or their parents were born.  Tuition equity is both a matter of fairness to these students and advances Florida’s goals to develop and retain talent,” said Laurie Meggesin, executive director of the Florida College Access Network, a statewide organization that promotes college degree attainment. “The students affected by the current tuition inequity grew up here, and attended Florida schools where they worked hard, earned their high school diplomas, and qualified for admission to Florida’s public colleges and universities. Such hard-working young people show promise for contributing to our state’s economic well-being throughout their adult lives, and as a state, we should encourage their higher education goals as we would those of any Florida student.”

Several states have passed tuition equity bills to date, including Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. A law granting in-state tuition to undocumented students would benefit Florida as a whole by increasing the number of degrees awarded by state universities and colleges and as a result help Florida thrive in the 21st Century global economy.

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