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 Floridas 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 governors 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 Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.