The Florida House of Representatives took a long-delayed step forward yesterday, when it approved HB851, an in-state tuition bill for young Florida graduates, by an 81-33 margin. A similar bill has passed committee in the Senate and is expected to be assigned to other committees soon. The bill has long been championed by groups like the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Governor Rick Scott has said that he supports tuition equality.
Seventeen other states have already legalized in-state tuition, including Texas, Utah, Kansas, and other conservative states, but it has yet to become reality in Florida, which is home to one of the largest immigrant populations in the nation. Currently, approximately 175,000 youth who grew up in Florida and graduated from its high schools have to pay 3 or 4 times more for out-of-state college tuition. Current Florida policy is especially pernicious because it applies not only to students who are undocumented, but also students whose parents are.
Said Jorge Tume, an undocumented student from Miami and leader of Students Working for Equal Rights, in a statement yesterday:
I’m very happy! Florida’s leaders are finally showing they want to keep moving forward with all our youth, including the undocumented. I was raised with the belief that education is the key to success, but trying to go to college while being undocumented is difficult and this bill will bring relief to many students like me who just want to keep studying and not be left behind. However, I am sad to see that this bill will not cover all youth in Florida, like my friend Julio Calderon, because of how it was amended. I am committed to keep working until we are all recognized as Floridians and have the same opportunity to receive an education.