After it passed through the House of Representatives late last week, the fate of a bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates now awaits the debate of the Florida Senate. The bill stipulates that the student must have lived in Florida for three years prior to graduating high school and enroll at a university within two years to be eligible for the in-state rates.
In recent years the bill has been seen as a point of political contention as a partisan wedge between liberals and conservatives. However, it is imperative in the interest of fairness to many of the young people who have grown up, worked in and had family members pay taxes in the state of Florida in the same way their locally born peers were, simply lacking the documentation at birth that renders them legal.
The State University System in Florida, funded largely in part by taxes paid by hardworking Floridians – taxes from natives, immigrants and those who immigrated without legal documentation who contribute equally to the Florida economy in a state with no income tax – was created for the children of Florida and thus should be equally accessible to them. Should a student who immigrated lacking proper documentation at the age of 1, but spent his or her whole life going through the public school system and contributing to the economy through sales taxes be forced to pay three times the rate of a student who moves to the state just months before enrolling in school to establish residency?
In recent months, several students across the State University System, including at USF, have come forward to share their individual stories. Some came without documentation to escape violence. Others never knew they were undocumented until it came time to enroll in college and were forced to pursue other dreams they could afford.
If Florida’s universities are to uphold their promise of accessibility to all, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants should pass without reason for debate.