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Friday, Aug 29, 2014

State’s unfair immigrant tuition law needs change


House Speaker Will Weatherford is taking a reasonable and humane approach to a legislative measure that would grant in-state college tuition rates to the children of immigrants living in the country illegally.

The bill would change a law that punishes children who are educated in Florida’s high schools but are treated differently from their classmates when attempting to further their education by attending college.

Many of those students lack the financial means to pay the out-of-state tuition rates, as the current law requires. Those rates can be more than three times higher than the in-state rate, a $60,000 difference over four years.

Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel, is supportive of efforts to change the law.

“I believe there is a glaring, unfair inconsistency in the way we treat children living in Florida,” Weatherford says. “The federal government requires us to educate all children, whether they are illegal or legally in the state. And yet, after they go through our public schools, we somehow pretend they are no longer Floridians.”

We hope that common-sense approach can overcome opposition in the Senate and that the bill can be signed into law this year by Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he would consider the changes.

Under the bill, students without legal immigration status who attend a Florida high school for three consecutive years and enroll in college within two years of graduation will be classified as Florida residents and eligible for the in-state tuition rates.

If passed, Florida would join 17 states that allow in-state tuition to students regardless of their immigration status, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Those states include Texas and California, the states with the greatest number of immigrants living in the country illegally.

The bill also includes a tuition break for veterans that is similar to the one included in other bills being considered this legislative session. Under current law, veterans must establish Florida residency for 12 months to be eligible for the in-state rate.

This bill would eliminate that 12-month requirement and grant in-state rates to veterans and reservists living in Florida while attending college.

The students who stand to benefit from these changes achieved an academic record worthy of high school graduation and consideration for acceptance into college.

Allowing the in-state tuition rates will help them reach their full potential, which is in Florida’s best interest.

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