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Undocumented Fla. Students Would Pay In-State Tuition in New Bill; Tea Party Says 'Unfair'

10:34 PM, Apr 5, 2011   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. --  Legislation being considered at the state capital would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges.

Senate Bill 318 is aimed at making higher education more accessible for undocumented students by making tuition rates more affordable. 

"This is not the type of item we think they should be working on," said Diane Leone with the Tea Party Network.

Leone said the bill is unfair to others looking to go to Florida colleges and universities.

She said, "If I live in South Dakota and I decide I want to come to FSU for example, I'd have to pay more than an undocumented student and that's not really fair."

Under current law, undocumented students are classified as "nonresidents" for tuition purposes because they have not been properly admitted into the United States. The bill, however, would exempt undocumented students from paying non-resident tuition if they meet certain requirements.

Those requirements are:
 
• Attend a Florida high school for 3 or more years;
• Graduate from a Florida high school or receive the equivalent general education diploma (GED);
• Register or be currently enrolled in an institution within the Florida College System or the State University System; and
• Submit an affidavit with the college or university stating his/her intent to file for legal residency as soon as he/she is eligible to do so.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, and in the House by Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami.

It cleared its first committee stop on Monday.

"It's only fair that we treat students the same way in the postsecondary education arena as we treat them in K-12.  We're not looking for a free-ride; we're simply trying to make college less expensive for these students," said Siplin.

Members of the First Coast Tea Party also have concerns about the bill.

"There's no common sense here, absolutely no common sense.  Why would we do that?," said Billie Tucker, "Become a citizen first and then they will absolutely get the same benefits everyone else gets."

Advocates for the Hispanic community said the measure is a great opportunity.  Some undocumented students with 4.0 GPA's have had to either forego higher education or go to other states to attend college because of high tuition costs.

The bill, which has four committee stops, will be heard next in the Senate Higher Education Committee.

First Coast News

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