Students who are the children of immigrants living in the country illegally may soon be able to receive in-state tuition if the USF Board of Trustees heeds a resolution passed by Student Government (SG).
SG voted on a resolution Tuesday night titled “Resolution to the Student Trustee to Advocate for a Policy of In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students,” which would allow for “undocumented students” to pay in-state tuition prices if they graduated from a Florida high school or have attended USF for at least 12 consecutive months.
Sen. Christopher Cano, a graduate student and sponsor of the resolution, said as it stands now, many of the students in question fall into a gray area when university administrators attempt to figure out what kind of tuition these students are expected to pay.
“It’s not that it’s giving special treatment to anyone,” Cano said. “They can’t even take up that policy as (the average person) could being an American citizen.”
Cano also said he believes the issue the resolution addresses is not an economic or a political issue, but a humanitarian one.
“This won’t cost the university anything,” Cano said. “This will be an internal business decision by the Board of Trustees … This is the future of USF. Do we want to send a message as Bulls that we welcome everyone here or we only welcome a few, and if you want to come here, we are going to rake you over the coals for doing it?”
Currently, most “undocumented students” are forced to pay out-of-state tuition, which is more than three times as expensive than in-state tuition.
Senators passed the non-binding resolution in a 35-9 majority vote.
The resolution, however, was not without its critics.
Before its passage, senators spent almost an hour debating the resolution on the floor and took two straw polls to decide if they even wanted to vote on the bill Tuesday night.
Many senators expressed that they did not have enough time to read the resolution prior to the legislative meeting, as the two-page resolution was sent out only two hours prior.
When Sen. Jean Cocco was questioned by a fellow senator about whether students had any input in the drafting of the piece of legislation, it sparked another debate into whether the resolution was indicative of the student voice.
Sen. Camilia Scharon said the bill was a big statement for USF and should have had more input from students and other senators.
“I know that the need of the many outweigh the concerns of the few, but we are here to have those concerns and voice those concerns,” Scharon said. “This is a big deal for USF, and I think we all should have been more involved.”
During debate, Students for a Democratic Society President Gage Lacharite told senators who were concerned about the lack of student voice in the resolution that SDS had been petitioning for the last week, getting students and student organizations on board with the drafted resolution.
Organizations in support of the resolution include the USF Latin American Student Association, USF Mexican American Student Association, USF Boricua Student Association, Members Empowering True Awareness and Tampa National Organization of Women.
Sen. Hiba Alqasemi, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said she helped Cano draft the resolution and it came about because of issues undocumented students raised to her.
“We also had Rep. Mark Danish speak to us last week about the bill that was struck down by the Florida Congress,” she said. “He educated us about the legislation, so people should know what we are talking about.”
The resolution will now be sent to Mark Lombardi-Nelson, the student representative to the Board of Trustees, who will present the resolution to the Board.
Cano said he hopes they will consider it and take it to a workshop meeting where the Board of Trustees can draft their own agenda item for the issue.
“Being a nonbinding resolution, they don’t have to do anything with it,” Cano said. “But we are hoping that they will see our resolution and work out the specifics on policy and implementation.”
SG will send a copy of the passed resolution to the Student Governments at the other USF System schools, which will vote on similar resolutions.
Lacharite said members of SDS will continue to collect signatures and encourage student organizations to come out in support of resolution.