FL SENATE COMMITTEE SAYS NO TO IN-STATE TUITION FOR THOUSANDS OF YOUTH IN FLORIDA

Yesteday Feb 16th , the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to pass SB 106, a bill that would have granted in-statetuition for all Florida graduates regardless of their immigration status or the status of their parents. After a heated debate preceded by testimonies from students who shared their personal stories with the legislators and others that shared the positive economic impact of in-state tuition for Florida, the bill failed with 3 Yeas (Senators Flores, Braynon and Joyner) and 4 Nays (Senators Richter, Thrasher, Gardiner andSimmons).

“Denying access to education and promoting exclusion is wrong. Our legislators are basically choosing who hasaccess to education and who doesn’t, discriminating thousands of talented youth only because of their immigrant origin,” says María Rodriguez, ExecutiveDirector for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “Latinos arethe fastest growing electorate in Florida and leaving these children behind ispurposely keeping them from being educated and becoming leaders and stakeholdersin our communities. What kind of Floridado our legislators want to build without an educated population?”

Nanci Palacios, a student of biomedical science inHillsborough County who dreams to be a doctor, shared her testimony during theCommittee. She has been paying out-of-state tuition for several years, workingfull-time to be able to pay for her classes. “When we heard the vote, it was disappointing but not discouraging. I wantto keep fighting not only for me but also for my siblings who I constantlyencourage to continue studying and follow their dreams. I will continue workinguntil we pass in-state tuition,” says Nanci. “I feel some legislators think ourparents don’t pay taxes, but they do, and those go to universities to provide in-state tuition for other Florida resident tax-payers.In-state tuition is not free tuition. Why can’t we benefit from thecontributions of our own parents?”

“It’s disappointing that theLegislature chose to pass on an opportunity to create some fundamental fairnessin access to education in Florida,” said Derek Newton, Communications Directorfor the ACLU of Florida. “Equal access to opportunity is a cornerstone of theAmerican dream and the Legislature should be looking for ways to expand accessto higher education for everyone instead of keeping discriminatory barriers inplace.”

Somebackground on SB 106 and in-state tuition

SB 106 would have allowed thousands ofFloridians who were born or raised in the State of Florida to pay in-statetuition in order to enroll in colleges or universities. Currently, approximately192,000* undocumented students and other many U.S. born Floridians whose parentsare undocumented, absent or incarcerated, are forced to pay out-of-statetuition which is three or four times higher, only because they can’t provideFlorida residency documents of their parents as required by current state laws.

Only 5%* of undocumented youth inFlorida have access to higher education because they and their families cannotafford it, and many U.S.-born Floridians have to flee the state to be able tocontinue with their studies.

In-state tuition is nothing new to ourcountry. 13 other states have already passed similar laws, including Texas,California and Utah. Florida is the fourth largest immigrant state and stilldoes not have in-state tuition.

Additionally, in-state tuition is notnew for Florida’s Legislature. Similar bills have been filed since 2003 andpassed the House and the Senate floors in several occasions. Even in 2011, thesame Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass in-state tuition.

* Data taken from the National Immigration Law Center: http://nilc.org/DREAMfacts.html

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