10/19/2011

SPLC Challenges Florida’s Discriminatory In-State College Tuition Policy

The SPLC today filed a federal class action lawsuit today on behalf of several aspiring college students who are denied in-state college tuition rates in Florida because they cannot prove the lawful immigration status of their parents.  

“These policies attack our most fundamental American values by punishing children for the actions of their parents,” said Jerri Katzerman, director of educational advocacy for the SPLC. “It’s an unconscionable attack on students from immigrant families that more than triples the cost of a college education.”
 
According to the lawsuit, policies of the Florida State Board of Education and the Florida Board of Governors treat students who are residents of Florida as non-residents solely because the students’ parents are undocumented immigrants – even when the students themselves are U.S. citizens.
 
The difference in tuition is staggering. At Miami Dade College, the cost per term in the two-year associate degree programs is $1,266 for residents, compared to $4,524 for students classified as nonresidents. The cost per term in the four-year bachelor’s degree programs is $1,400 for residents, compared to $6,246 for non-residents.
 
For a full year, nonresident students would have to pay $6,516 more in tuition and fees toward an associate’s degree and $9,692 more toward a bachelor’s degree than a resident student.
 
Such discriminatory practices have placed unjustified burdens on these students. Many talented American students who live in Florida either delay or completely forego a college education due to the higher tuition rates that result from being wrongly classified as “non-residents.”
 
“These American students went to the same Florida high schools, held down the same part-time jobs and participated in the same after-school activities as their counterparts who are granted in-state tuition,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office. “We are simply asking that these students be granted the same rights as all other Florida citizens.”
 
The defendants named in the lawsuit are Gerard Robinson, Florida commissioner of education, and Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the state university system. They are sued in their official capacities.
 
This lawsuit is part of the SPLC’s effort to reform school policies that unnecessarily push students out of school or otherwise limit their opportunities for a successful future. These efforts are focused in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

If you are a U.S. citizen living in Florida who has been classified as “out of state” for tuition purposes, please contact us.

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