In-State Tuition Becomes Reality for Florida Dreamers

By: Allison Nielsen and Kevin Derby | Posted: June 9, 2014 12:45 PM

In-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants will become a reality in Florida. On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 851 into law, which would offer Dreamers the same tuition rate as Florida residents.

"Making sure all Floridians have access to an affordable higher education is one of my top priorities," said Scott. "Signing this historic legislation today will keep tuition low, and allow all students who grew up in Florida to have the same access to affordable higher education."

The passage makes Florida the 21st state to offer in-state tuition rates for Dreamers and the bill will cost Florida colleges and universities around $49 million. 

The signing won the praise of House Speaker Will Weatherford, who championed the issue as one of his top priorities during this year's 60-day legislative session.

"The dreams of many individuals looking to further their education are now within reach,” Weatherford said. “I thank Gov. Scott for giving all of Florida's children a chance to succeed. This is a proud and historic moment for Florida."

Scott's passing of the bill came as no surprise as the governor had already promised he'd give it the green light after it passed. But the road to actually getting the bill out of the walls of the Legislature and into Scott's office was tumultuous.

HB 851 enjoyed widespread support in the House, but it was uncertain if the bill's Senate counterpart, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would get the necessary votes to head to the governor's office.

Supporters of the bill gathered at the Florida Capitol during the last week of session, camping out in the rotunda, waving signs and chanting for legislators to pass the bill. Eventually, the bill made its way through the Senate in a nail-biting vote of 26-13.

Support for the signing poured in on Monday.

“At a time when Florida’s economy is experiencing an incredible recovery, it is crucial to focus on the young Floridians who will someday lead our state," said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. "The governor’s decision to sign this legislation will provide our students with the opportunities to succeed in the classroom and the workforce.”

Dreamers will save a pretty penny with an in-state rate: it currently costs about 75 percent less than regular tuition.

Sen. Latvala applauded Scott's decision to pass the bill into law.

"Today, we are taking a critical step in ensuring that future generations are able to afford college," he said. "We know that a good education is the foundation to finding a great job and I thank Gov. Scott for signing this important piece of legislation.”

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen

Comments (3)

C Breeze
10:18AM JUN 10TH 2014
Politicians: Keep on giving CITIZEN TAXPAYING monies away to every social-engineering scheme imaginable until you turn Florida into California or New York. Remember, 'socialism' only works until you run out of other peoples' money..' This may be a "feelgood' moment for you and hopefully cement what YOU see as your "political legacy", but the reality is that YOUR petty 'legacy' is about to become short, and you will ultimately find yourself a pariah in your own home State (Get it yet Will W.?). Those imagined in-State tuition savings for ILLEGAL ALIEN progeny must be ultimately subsidized by the TAXPAYER to ameliorate the increased tuition fees that you MUST know the Colleges and Universities will levy. You feel the need to spend MORE on the backs of the CITIZEN TAXPAYERS?!?!?...Then try spending it on Florida's veterans who have always kept you political elitist bastards safe in your beds at night.....
Tired of Political Games
8:47AM JUN 10TH 2014
People are so warped in their thinking, why should Illegal Aliens get any benefits that Legal Citizens should be receiving? Illegal or as the political jargon tries to disassociate them with that status by saying Undocumented are criminals they broke the law by entering our country and are putting a strain on the system so much now that it is detrimental. Not to mention that they are an insult to every individual who did the right thing by going through the legal process of becoming a legal citizen. I'm all for more people being allowed the opportunity to live the American Dream for what it is worth today but not Illegal Undocumented Aliens or their offspring who were born here due to their direct illegal entry into our country. They do not pay anything but sales tax because Illegal Undocumented Aliens are usually paid under the table so what is their true contribution? Nothing they take more than they could ever possibly contribute in any meaningful way!
12:22PM JUN 10TH 2014
Though I'm truly amazed that this Bill made it through the right-wing Legislature and an equally right-wing Governor, I strongly approve. Many of the children affected were brought here by their parents (or adult relatives) and AREN'T the ones that broke the law. These students will matriculate from Florida schools, and the majority of them will settle in FL, benefiting the state by increasing the educated, skilled workforce. Ever heard of compassion?

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