A bill that would allow Florida-born U.S. citizens to pay in-state college tuition fees regardless of the immigration status of their parents, died yesterday in the Florida Senate committee on Higher Education.
Sen. Steve Oelrich, a Gainesville Republican who chairs the committee, interrupted a 20-year-old Miami Dade College student, Carla Montes, during her emotional testimony.
Montes was born in Miami and graduated from Ronald Reagan High School in Doral. But her parents are undocumented, so she has to pay the out-of-state college tuition rate which is three times higher. Montes told the committee the policy is unfair because she is a lawful Florida resident.
“No, no, no, we’re talking about your parents,” Oelrich interrupted, according to the Associated Press. “That’s how we establish residency in the state of Florida, by the status of your parents.”
Montes responded by saying, “With all respect, the person who is sitting in the classroom, the person who’s giving back to this economy is me, not my parents.”
As StateImpact Florida reported earlier, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit against the Florida education commissioner and university system chancellor on behalf of five Florida students in the same situation as Montes.
“With all respect, the person who is sitting in the classroom, the person who’s giving back to this economy is me, not my parents.”
-Miami Dade College student Carla Montes
Tania Galloni is the managing attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office. The last time we spoke with her, Galloni said Florida’s policy discriminates against U.S. citizens and violates the Constitution.
“One of the fundamental principals of our country is that a U.S. citizen is a U.S. citizen is a U.S. citizen. It doesn’t matter who your parents are or where they came from,” Galloni said. “So these students are U.S. citizen, but they’re being treated differently from all other U.S. citizens. And the only reason they’re being treated this way is because their parents don’t have immigration status.”
So what is the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition?
For a four-year bachelor’s degree program at Miami Dade College, the in-state rate is $1,400 per term. The out-of-state rate for Florida born U.S. citizens with undocumented parents is $6,246 per term — a $38,767 difference for a student taking eight semesters to earn a degree.
And that figure doesn’t include summer school courses required of many Miami Dade College students.
Youths with Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) are now turning to the Hispanic Caucus, asking them to support two similar bills in the legislature, SB106 and HB81, that would grant undocumented students in-state tuition privileges.
What’s your view on allowing Florida-born children of undocumented immigrants or undocumented students access to the lower in-state tuition?