Court Protects In-State Tuition for Florida Students with Undocumented Parents

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A federal judge has overturned a Florida regulation requiring students with undocumented parents to pay out-of-state tuition at state colleges. Because tuition is tied to the student and not the household, the court ruled that Florida’s regulation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. As natural-born American citizens, the students are entitled to the same benefits as other citizens and residents of Florida, regardless of their parents’ immigration status.

The Florida regulation had required students who could not provide evidence that their parents were legal U.S. residents to pay out-of-state tuition rates at state universities. But Judge K. Michael Moore ruled that the lower tuition rates available to in-state residents attending public, postsecondary institutions are attached to the students and not to their households. He also noted that it is the student’s name, not that of any family member, that ends up on the diploma.

The five plaintiffs in the case had each been admitted to a Florida public university. As legal dependents, they were asked for proof of their parents’ federal immigration status to confirm tuition and scholarship eligibility. Since none of the five were able to provide proof of legal immigration status for their parents, they were charged the higher, out-of-state tuition. Faced with higher tuition and reduced or withdrawn scholarships, three of the students chose not to enroll in college. The two who did enroll could not afford to carry a full course load. The court’s ruling means future students in similar circumstances should face fewer hurdles to postsecondary study.

The U.S. needs all the talent it can draw upon if it is to remain competitive in the global marketplace. We cannot afford to squander any talent. Regulations such as Florida’s should rightfully be overturned or vacated so all motivated students can pursue postsecondary education.

—Nicole Tortoriello