June 12, 2014
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill Monday aimed at making college tuition more affordable for all Florida students, including undocumented residents. House Bill 851 is only part of Governor Scott's plans to slow down the pace of tuition increases that took place under the leadership of former governor Charlie Crist. As the Tampa Bay Times noted, Scott initially opposed extending in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, yet changed his tune to accommodate another provision in the bill; the fact that House Bill 851 also freezes tuition rates. The result is a bill that keeps tuition to Florida colleges and universities low while also increasing accessibility to undocumented students.
"Making sure all Floridians have access to an affordable higher education is one of my top priorities," said Governor Scott in a press release. "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."
According to Reuters, the new legislation applies to undocumented students who have attended a Florida school for at least three years. The new law makes it possible for undocumented Floridians to pay as little as 25 percent of what out-of-state students are expected to pay to attend a Florida college or university. According to an analysis by Florida's House of Representatives, 17 other states have similar rules that extend in-state tuition prices to undocumented residents.
Governor Scott emphasized the importance of college affordability and accessibility for all students. Florida Senator Rene Garcia reinforced the governor's statement, saying in the press release that students deserve equal access to higher education and opportunity. "All students who live and grow up in our state deserve the same opportunities to succeed. Through signing this legislation, Governor Scott is helping to provide fair access to affordable education for all of our great students."
Florida Democrats and the state's Hispanic Caucus have supported in-state tuition prices for undocumented students in the past, but it wasn't until across-the-board tuition freezes were included that Senate Republicans such as Scott also threw in their support. Now all Florida colleges and universities, except for the University of Florida and Florida State University, must seek the state Legislature's approval before increasing tuition. Furthermore, House Bill 851 lowers the maximum tuition increase from 15 percent to 6 percent for all schools.
Scott, who will run as a Republican against former Governor Crist in November's election, has been accused of supporting in-state tuition for undocumented students only to shore up support from the state's Hispanic population, Reuters reported. However, intentions aside, some legislators are satisfied that the bill was passed and that more Florida students will now have the opportunity to earn a college degree.
"In a remarkable turnaround, Governor Rick Scott went from fierce anti-immigrant to finally accepting the reality of Florida," Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, told Reuters. "Young people who were brought here by immigrant parents deserve a chance at affordable higher education."
Compiled by Holly Johnson
"Florida governor extends in-state tuition to undocumented students," reuters.com, Bill Cotterell, June 9, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/09/us-usa-florida-tuition-idUSKBN0EK18R20140609
"Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs bill to give in-state tuition to undocumented students, tampabay.com, June 9, 2014, Tia Mitchell, http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-gov-rick-scott-signs-bill-to-give-in-state-tuition-to-undocumented/2183562
"Gov. Scott Signs Legislation that Lowers Tuition for All Florida Students," flgov.com, June 9, 2014, http://www.flgov.com/2014/06/09/gov-scott-signs-legislation-that-lowers-tuition-for-all-florida-students/