Legislation allows undocumented students attending Florida universities access to in-state tuition.
Students whose parents came to the United States illegally are now allowed to pay in-state tuition fees, thanks to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday.
“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,” said Governor Scott, a Republican seeking re-election.
Carefully toeing the line of immigration reform, the legislation is aimed at reducing overall tuition costs for in-state students, which is about one-fourth the rate of out-of-state tuition. The new bill also restricts Florida universities from raising tuition rates beyond a level predetermined by lawmakers.
What is considered by many to be a step forward for Florida immigrants, the bill has long faced strong Republican opposition over the past few years, but the Florida Senate voted on Thursday in favor of the legislation amidst fierce criticisms from Republicans.
“We are giving so many benefits to non-citizens,” said Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), “…Does it matter even being an American citizen anymore?”
Many are worried about the cost of implementing the bill, which is estimated at about $50 million, but others – including Republican supporter Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) – feel the bill is a movement in the right direction.
Governor Scott is facing strong opposition in the upcoming election against former Governor Charlie Crist, who is now running as a Democrat, and some speculate that his signing of the bill is an attempt to cater to the growing Hispanic voting population, especially as Governor Scott campaigned for tougher anti-immigration measures in Florida. Former Governor Crist contends, however, that the bill is not enough, and that such measures should be implemented more regularly for the southern state.
Florida is now one of nineteen states allowing children of parents who entered the United States illegally to have access to in-state tuition.