As of July 1, qualified undocumented students at Florida colleges and universities will now pay in-state tuition.
Though still considered nonresidents, out-of-state fee waivers will allow these students to pay the same rates as documented Florida residents. This law extends to students who have attended a Florida secondary school for three consecutive years before graduating high school and applying to a college within two years of their graduation.
With the difference in fees per credit hour at FGCU coming out to around $600 according to the FGCU cashiers website, this tuition waiver will change the way many current and future students shoulder the cost of higher
Student leaders at FGCU expressed their support for the passage of the bill this March, when Student Government was one of the first University governments in the state to pass a resolution in support of tuition equality. SG Director of Student Relations Andres Machado was an instrumental part of the resolution’s passage at FGCU and has promoted the passage of the bill in the state senate by reaching out to the Southwest Florida community in the public media.
In an interview with Naples Daily News, Machado stressed the importance of tuition equality, asserting that, “it is not a political
issue. It is an educational, social justice and economical issue to allow these students to have equal tuition and equal opportunities as everyone else.”
Supporters of the tuition equality movement push for the state to continue investing in undocumented students
beyond primary and secondary education.
“We’re investing in our students, but were telling them in 12th grade no, you cannot continue. Our investment is completely done,” Machado told NBC-2 News.
FGCU junior Fatima Soto has just had an in-state waiver applied to her tuition as a result of this law. Soto was born in Mexico and has been living in the United States since she was in second grade, graduating from Immokalee High School in 2012. Though she is not a Florida resident, she has a work permit and works to pay her school tuition with the help of her family. As a full-time student, Soto is grateful for the waiver and the instate tuition rates that will ease her financial strain.
“I can breathe a bit and not worry now that it won’t be so much,” Soto said.
The fight for tuition equality for undocumented students is far from being over, however.
Though the bill will reduce tuition for undocumented students, it will not make them eligible to receive financial aid from the state as they are still considered non-residents.
Soto is in favor of further aid, as it would make it much easier for her to pay for school.
“It shouldn’t make a difference whether I’m a resident or not because I am working for my education and actually putting effort toward it,” Soto said. “I wish that the state would see that.”
Though there is still a great deal to be done to bring about true tuition equality, the effects of these in-state tuition waivers
will make higher education a more viable opportunity for undocumented students in the state of Florida.