Florida students living in the country illegally will be allowed to qualify for in-state college tuition rates under a bill passed by the Legislature.
The bill heads to Gov. Rick Scott who has already promised to sign it into law.
The Florida House voted 84-32 for the bill which offers the in-state college tuition rate to undocumented students who had attended a Florida school for at least three years prior to graduation. Currently the in-state tuition rate is one-quarter of what is paid by out-of-state students and those who are in the country illegally.
The in-state college tuition bill has been considered several times before but it drew strong opposition from many Republicans.
But this year Scott and other GOP leaders such as House Speaker Will Weatherford backed the bill.
Here is a compilation of reaction to the Senate’s passage of the bill:
Governor Rick Scott:
“The Florida Legislature embraced fairness for all students today by taking action to lower the costs of higher education for every family in Florida. Students who have spent their childhood here in Florida deserve to qualify for the same in-state tuition. We are trying to right the wrongs of the previous administration that raised the price of a college education and opposed providing in-state tuition for children of immigrants. The Legislature did the right thing, and I look forward to signing this historic legislation.”
House Speaker Will Weatherford:
“Today, the Florida Legislature made history. For many years, children who are here through no fault of their own have waited for the opportunity to begin fully realizing their dreams. Today, the Florida Legislature put those dreams within reach.
“Throughout this debate, President Gaetz personified what it means to be a statesman. While we did not agree on this issue, he put his personal differences aside and allowed this issue to have the debate it deserves. I thank Senators Latvala and Legg for their leadership and Representative Nuñez for her persistence and passion. This is a proud moment for our state.”
Former Governor Charlie Crist:
“Today shows that bipartisanship can allow our state to do great things. This legislation will create incredible opportunities for some of our best and brightest students. If the people are gracious enough to give me a chance to serve as their Governor, moments like this will be the norm, not just an election year exception.”
Former Governor Jeb Bush:
“Today, the Florida Legislature passed landmark legislation to ensure all Florida students have easier and more affordable access to our exceptional colleges and universities. It is not only the right thing to do, but it will fulfill an economic imperative to keep and capitalize on the talent in our state, making our future workforce more globally competitive than ever. Florida succeeded in doing what the federal government has failed to do – take real steps to address our nation’s serious immigration challenges. I applaud Governor Scott, Speaker Weatherford and the Florida Legislature for their strong leadership.”
Former Governor Bob Martinez:
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Scott, the Legislature just took a huge step forward in building a better and brighter future for Florida’s children. An education isn’t meaningful unless it’s accessible, and this soon to be law will provide more Florida students in our communities the access they need to pursue careers that make Florida a better place for families to thrive and succeed. I have no doubt that generations of Floridians will benefit from the good work of Governor Scott and this Florida Legislature.”
Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant:
“This is a good step forward for Florida’s young Dreamers, but no one is fooled here. This is election-year pandering of Rick Scott and Florida Republicans. Election year politics are finally forcing Florida Republicans to do what best for Florida’s children.
“In order to get this bill passed, Tallahassee Republicans have had to pander to the Tea Party. If Rick Scott and his allies in the Legislature truly believed in helping Florida’s Hispanic community, they wouldn’t have weakened this bill so much. This bill forces Dreamers to compete for a limited number of slots with out-of-state students. It denies them financial aid.”
Representative José Javier Rodríguez :
“Eleven years after in-state tuition for immigrant youth was first proposed in Florida, with election-year politics in our favor tuition equality for most of our Dreamers finally crossed the legislative finish line this year. It is my hope that today’s final legislative passage of House Bill 851 signals an end to the anti-immigrant extremism that has prevailed in the Republican-run legislature and that next year we will see more support for other measures toward opportunity and inclusion for Floridians who are immigrants.”
Former Rep. Ana Rivas Logan:
“(I)f the Governor supported this bill all along, as he now wants us to believe, why did he only pick up the phone to call legislative leaders last week? Unfortunately for Rick Scott, Florida’s Hispanic community will see his last minute support for what it is: a hollow re-election gimmick. One bill doesn’t change three years of overtly hurtful treatment of Florida’s Hispanic community.”
“AIF congratulates Representative Jeanette Nunez and Senator Jack Latvala for their efforts on the passage of Postsecondary Education Tuition and Fees legislation.
“HB 851, which will allow certain undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, will help Florida businesses to retain and grow a strong workforce. We are hopeful that the Governor will sign this good bill into law to make higher education more accessible to our future generations.”