Students pay higher prices based on their parents’ illegal status
Out-of-state costs prove to be difficult
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 16:07
Should U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition?
For students who are the children of immigrants, getting an education in the United States is not always easy. In Florida, it can be even more challenging.
Some college applicants could be required to pay out-of-state tuition even though they are United States citizens and Florida residents.
U.S. Census data show that Florida has undergone a decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants living here since 2000, but as more American-born children of illegal immigrants reach college age, they could face issues when it comes to paying for an education.
To establish residency for tuition purposes, college applicants must first declare their status as a dependent or an independent. Dependent students must prove both their own residency and the Florida residency of their parents or guardians in order to qualify for in-state tuition.
According to the UCF undergraduate admissions website, “evidence that you are the financial dependent of an out-of-state resident can disqualify you from Residency Reclassification.” This means that students who do not qualify for in-state tuition because they are unable to prove the federal immigration status of their parents must pay a much higher price to earn their degrees, even if they have lived in Florida their entire lives.
At UCF, the cost of a single credit hour is $208.23 for residents but $744.84 for non-Florida residents, a more than 350 percent increase that could knock the prospect of a college education out of the hands of someone who cannot afford to pay that much.
The admissions process can be strenuous enough, even for students with all of the advantages. Getting accepted into a university is a big deal to high school graduates of all types, but prospective Knights can face residency issues, too.
Gordon Chavis, associate vice president of undergraduate admissions at UCF, said that there is a “growing number of individuals who are unable to qualify for in-state tuition” due to their parents’ immigration status.
The high cost of out-of-state tuition can definitely be a deterrent to students and their families when seeking higher education, Chavis said.
Alyssa Boddie, a nursing student, is not surprised the state and university don’t want to change the policy and lose out on potential earnings.
“From a business standpoint, I understand where they’re coming from,” she said.
Leslie Gonshak, also a nursing student, said “students will just have to take out loans” but will find a way to get an education if they want it.
She wouldn’t feel bad, however, for UCF if the university lost out on the out-of-state tuition.
In February, a bipartisan-backed bill that would have ensured resident status for tuition purposes didn’t pass through a Florida Senate subcommittee. The Senate analysis of the law said that the amount of potentially lost revenue would be “indeterminate” and that the state would have to “incur the cost of increased financial aid” for a higher number of eligible students, making the bill financially unfeasible.
On July 18, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on civil rights issues, filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of a group of students in South Florida. They hope to push the courts to have the policies nullified on the basis that it is unconstitutional to distinguish between United States citizens based on the immigration status of their parents.
Jerri Katzerman, one of the attorneys from the center working on the case, says that the organization’s expert analysis shows that approximately 11,826 college-aged children of immigrants would benefit from this policy change. Katzerman added that the University of Miami and the Children’s Trust have also taken legal action toward changing this policy.
Cecilia Milanes, faculty adviser to the Hispanic American Student Association and professor of Hispanic literature at UCF, says that the policy is a highly problematic requirement that could create an unnecessary burden on students and their families.
“Students living in and educated in Florida, who meet the requirements and whose applications make the cut, should pay in-state tuition,” Milanes said. “The community — university and region — benefits from having highly achieving individuals studying, working, spending their money in the community. Everybody wins.”