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Florida students win vote on Tuition Equity

By Chrisley Carpio

Tallahassee, FL – Students achieved a victory late last week when the Florida Senate passed tuition equity. On May Day, 2014, the Florida Senate passed House Bill 851 mandating tuition waivers for undocumented students at public universities. Presently, Florida’s undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition, three times the in-state tuition rate. After attending and graduating from Florida high schools, many are denied equal access to higher education by the out-of-state tuition rate.

Students rallied, prayed, and protested over the course of last week at the Florida Capitol, organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. Passing the bill hit a roadblock when some Republicans refused to move it out of committee or bring it to a floor vote. Students quickly mobilized, despite studying for final exams. Education For All activists arrived outside the Senate Chambers to sit-in and protest demanding Senate President Don Gaetz and the bill’s sponsor, Senator Latvala, put the bill onto the floor. With the constant presence of student organizers and press, the Senators passed H.B. 851 with a vote of 26 to 13. Now it is only a matter of days before Governor Rick Scott signs the bill into law.

Students in Florida won this victory by organizing on their campuses, passing student government resolutions, meeting with university administrators and presidents to gain their public support, and rallying outside and speaking at university board meetings. Statewide organizing by immigrant rights and student groups built a broad movement that the politicians were forced to respond to. Many of the student groups work within the national Education For All campaign, which fights for tuition equity throughout the country.

“I’m happy to announce that tuition equity has officially passed in the Florida Senate!” said Colleen Baublitz of SDS at a May Day event in Gainesville. “I also want to emphasize that the struggle does not end here. Students in Florida should keep fighting locally to protect these tuition waivers, and students in other states should fight for tuition equity, financial aid for undocumented students, and their admission into universities in states where it is still prohibited. The campaign is not over until equality for all immigrants is achieved.”

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