CREDIT: Office of Rick Scott/Meredyth Hope Hall
On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a tuition equity bill, colloquially known as the state-level DREAM Act, that would allow some undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition. Scott signed the bill privately, but plans “to tout the signing at a campaign event scheduled later in the day in Fort Myers,” according to the Associated Press. He will make five campaign stops this week to discuss college costs and to limiting tuition hikes.
Scott said in a prepared statement Monday, “Signing this historic legislation today will keep tuition low, and allow all students who grew up in Florida to have the same access to affordable higher education.” The Senate’s bill sponsor Republican State Sen. Jack Latvala added, “We know that a good education is the foundation to finding a great job and I thank Governor Scott for signing this important piece of legislation.”
Like other state-level DREAM Act bills, undocumented immigrants who want to qualify for in-state tuition must, according to the bill, fulfill a number of conditions including: attending a secondary school for three consecutive years before graduating from a Florida high school, applying for enrollment in an institution of higher education within 24 months after high school graduation; and submitting an official Florida high school transcript as evidence of attendance and graduation.
Tuition equity for undocumented immigrants was one of the most hotly debated topics during the 2014 legislative session in the state, at times seeming certain to die in the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee.
Juan Escalante is an undocumented Florida State University (FSU) graduate student who will now be able to pay at in-state tuition rates. He told ThinkProgress Monday, “Wahoo! Days like these demonstrate that good policies can be achieved when politics are put aside. After a long fight, undocumented students from across Florida will be one step closer to graduating from the college or university of their choice. We are hopeful that Florida will continue to enact policies that empower the rich and vibrant immigrant community that resides within the state.” Escalante’s two younger brothers, Daniel and David, will also now qualify for in-state tuition.