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Florida Policy

Updated As Of: March 21, 2017

On June 9, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 851into law. The bill grants undocumented students out-of-state fee waivers if they meet the following criteria: 
  • Attended a Florida secondary school for 3 consecutive years immediately before graduating from a Florida high school
  • Applied for enrollment in an institution of higher education within 24 months after high school graduation
  • Submitted an official Florida high school transcript as evidence of attendance and graduation

A student granted an out-of-state fee waiver is still considered a non-resident student, is not eligible for financial aid, and cannot be reported as a resident for tuition purposes. In addition, this bill also states that a dependent child who is a U.S. citizen may not be denied classification as a resident for tuition purposes based solely upon the immigration status of his/her parent. 

  • In January 2016, HB 4061 was introduced and later died in the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee. If passed, the bill would have removed the provision stating that US citizen children may not be denied classification as residents for tuition purposes based solely upon immigration status of their parent(s).
  • In February 2015, HB 4029 was introduced and later died in the Choice and Innovation Subcommittee. If passed, the bill would have repealed the state tuition equity law.
  • For the past 10 years, advocates and congress members have attempted but failed to pass legislation allowing students (either undocumented or U.S. citizens) that are dependents of undocumented parents to qualify for in-state tuition. The following is a brief list of cases and/or proposed legislation addressing this issue, culminating with the passage of HB 851 in 2014. :
    • Ruiz v. Robinson (2012): On August 31, 2012 the U.S. District Court ruled that the denial of in-state tuition benefits for U.S. citizens, who are dependents upon undocumented parents but who otherwise meet Florida residency requirements, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
    • Florida Statute Title XLVII (2013): States that U.S. citizens who are dependents upon undocumented parents and who otherwise meet Florida residency are considered nonresidents for tuition purposes.
    • HB 51 (2014): Would allow U.S. citizens who are dependents to be eligible for residency status for tuition purposes regardless of their parent's residency status. The bill was withdrawn prior to being introduced in the house.
    • HB 205 was filed by Representative Rodriguez on October 23, 2013, this bill revises certain residency requirements for tuition purposes for dependent children; prohibits denial of classification as resident for tuition purposes based on certain immigration status; revises provisions relating to required documentation as evidence of residency; provides additional persons who shall be classified as residents for tuition purposes; provides fee exemption for students with certain immigration status; authorizes certain fee & tuition waivers.
    • HB 275, SB 428SB 300, and HB 205 were introduced on March 4, 2014. If passed, they would provide in-state tuition to undocumented students and Florida citizens with undocumented parents.
    • After many failed attempts, the Florida senate passed HB 851 on May 1st, 2014. It was signed into law June 9, 2014. This bill allows qualifying undocumented students and U.S. citizens dependent on immigrant parents to receive out-of-state fee waivers to attend postsecondary institutions. The act went into effect on July 1st, 2014
  • Executive Order Number 11-02: On January 4, 2011, Governor Rick Scott ordered all state employers to use E-verify in order to ensure that no undocumented workers would be employed by the state. 

Federal law has been unsuccessful at addressing comprehensive access to postsecondary education for undocumented students. Despite efforts to pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, Congress has not addressed the current ambiguous language in IIRIRA regarding undocumented students' eligibility for educational benefits (i.e. in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid programs). Therefore, much of the policy activity regarding postsecondary access for undocumented students has shifted to state and system levels. As a result, state policymakers and higher education institutions take varied approaches to either broadening or restricting access to postsecondary education and educational benefits. Others states have yet to take formal action on this issue, leaving the decision to individual campus leaders.

Under the provisions of this ambiguous policy context, undocumented youth encounter contentious environments with policies that range from inclusive, restrictive, or unstipulated stances.

Inclusive: States with policies that explicitly grant in-state tuition and/or eligibility for public financial aid for undocumented students.

Restrictive: States with policies that explicitly deny eligibility for admission and/or in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Unstipulated: States that do not have stated policies that explicitly address undocumented student access to postsecondary education.

State and system policies are volatile and continuously changing. For the latest, please visit the uLEAD NewsdeskFor information specific to individual state context, click in the subheadings below.