Florida House Passes In-State Tuition Bill
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A bill to offer in-state tuition rates to children of undocumented immigrants passed the Florida House Thursday, allowing DREAMers to get one step closer to tuition equality in the Sunshine State.
The bill, HB 851, sponsored by Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, passed by a vote of 81-33, with mostly Republicans voting “no” on the legislation.
HB 851 would allow students who attend a Florida high school for four consecutive years and enroll in a postsecondary institution within 24 months after graduation in-state tuition rates, provided they submit their high school transcript as documentary evidence of attendance and graduation. The bill would also extend the tuition and fee waivers for Purple Heart recipients to those who enroll in workforce education programs at Florida career centers.
Earlier this week, House Republicans offered an amendment to the bill to exempt Dreamers from university calculations for how many in-state students universities accept.
Offering in-state tuition rates for children of undocumented immigrants has been a high priority of Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, during this year’s legislative session.
“Today, the Florida House took a historic step toward putting a college degree within reach for a certain group of Florida students,” said Weatherford after the legislation was passed. “The State of Florida invests thousands of taxpayer dollars to educate children who are here through no fault of their own. The time has come to stop penalizing them for the mistakes of their parents.”
The bill gathered support from Republicans and Democrats alike, with many praising the legislation for its fairness to many of Florida’s students.
“For too long, young people have found the road to a college education blocked. They have found the best path to the middle class blocked because of something they had no control over,” said Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. “When they were young, their parents brought them to Florida. They are Floridians as much as you or me.”
Although the legislation passed in the House, a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is expected to have a much more difficult time passing in the Senate. Earlier this week, the proposal barely squeezed through the Senate Education Committee, winning a by 5-4 vote.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.