Don’t stifle tuition aid to children of illegals
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 16:02
Over the course of the last four years, tuition rates at five state colleges in Florida have spiked 60 percent, while the other six have seen increases of up to 45 percent, according to The Palm Beach Post.
The Florida House budget this year contains yet another 8 percent increase in tuition rates, a figure that could increase to 15 percent upon approval from the Governors Board of the Governors' State University System. In a 3-3 tie, the Florida Senate failed to pass House Bill 81 last week, a proposal which would have allowed citizens of the United States who are Florida residents to pay in-state tuition, despite their parents' immigration status. With aimless goals for the future of higher learning, Florida legislators continue to shift the burden of education costs onto students and their families with the refusal of this bill.
Although not its intent, House Bill 81 brings to a head several immigration issues and fears that many states are shying away from. It was estimated that Alabama's new immigrant policy, passed in June, cost the state's economy up to $10.8 billion, and up to 80,000 jobs were vacated by immigrants escaping the crackdown. Florida's Hispanic population and its influence looms large in the state's economy, and despite efforts by some, such as House Bill 81, to rectify the issue, it remains to be seen how long it will take legislators to recognize this is an ongoing issue and to face the solution in a constructive manner.
"With all respect, the person who is sitting in the classroom, the person who's giving back to this economy is me, not my parents," Miami-Dade college student Carla Montes told the Senate Higher Education Committee in Tallahassee, according to the Miami Herald. Montes, like many other U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, faces the issue of paying out-of-state tuition rates that are continually climbing and financially impossible for working students trying to balance an education.
The bill would have also aided students whose parents are incarcerated or out of the picture altogether. As a college student juggling work and school while supplementing income through loans, the struggle is familiar.
One's parent's status and income should have absolutely no bearing on his or her ability to obtain said loans, and this is the case for many students who wish to file as an independent under the age of 24 but are unable to without extenuating circumstances such as marriage, military enrollment or emancipation. The bill included stipulations such as enrollment for at least two years and graduation from a Florida high school before being eligible for in-state tuition rates.
The issue boils down to a simple right to education, no more or less. This bill enables students hoping for an opportunity to better themselves. The ultimate win is one in which more skilled and educated students graduate from Florida institutions and contribute these skills to the state's economy and job market. As home to one of the nation's largest university systems, Florida should be leading by example on this frontier, not stifling it.