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Republicans Split Over Cheaper Tuition For Undocumented Students

Greenspoon Marder/flickr

Florida's undocumented residents may soon have access to cheaper college tuition. The proposal is part of a sweeping bill aimed at reducing the cost of higher education.

Undocumented students could pay in-state tuition if they meet certain eligibility requirements. They’ve been paying the out-of-state rate, which is three times more expensive.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, says all Florida residents pay sales tax and other taxes to the state, so they deserve cheaper tuition.

“My bill would just say that if a young person graduates from high school after having attended that high school for three years, and they still live in Florida when they apply for college, they are eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their parents’ immigration status,” Latvala said.

The bill would also:

  • Reduce the cost of Florida prepaid college plans
  • Offer in-state tuition to military veterans who move to Florida for school
  • Eliminate the requirement that tuition rates increase with inflation

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is against the idea of cheaper tuition for undocumented residents, but he hasn’t said whether he’ll stand in the way of a vote.
Gaetz represents a Panhandle district that includes a military base. He says he has neighbors who came from other countries and immigrated "the right way."

“They stood in line to become residents of Florida and residents of this country and enjoy the benefits of being a Floridian,” Gaetz said. “I don’t know how I can go home and tell these law abiding people that they have to step out of line, because there are some other people who have compelling stories who need to be first in line.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, strongly backs the proposal and says it's a priority for him during the legislative session that begins Tuesday.

News Service of Florida contributed to this report.