SPLC lawsuit ends Florida’s unconstitutional college tuition policy

A federal judge has blocked a discriminatory college tuition policy in Florida that the SPLC challenged on behalf of U.S. citizens living in the state but forced to pay out-of-state tuition because they were unable to prove their parents’ federal immigration status.

The order, based on an earlier decision by the court, declared the policy – which could more than triple a student’s tuition – unconstitutional. It was issued late Thursday by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The court also ordered state officials to provide written notice of this change in policy to all dependent U.S. citizen students within 20 days of his order. The court has retained limited jurisdiction over the case to ensure compliance with the order.

“This is a victory for hardworking and determined U.S. citizen students who had been denied their ability to participate in the American Dream,” said Jerri Katzerman, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “This order signals that our judicial system will not tolerate policies that create second-class citizens.”

The SPLC filed a federal class action lawsuit challenging the policy in October 2011.

Students unable to prove their parents’ lawful immigration status faced a staggering increase in their tuition. At Florida State University, the annual out-of-state tuition is $14,444 higher than the in-state tuition rate. At the University of Florida, the difference comes to more than $22,200 per year.