DeSantis Proposes Tuition Hike for Undocumented College Students

Florida's governor plans to soon force undocumented students to pay out-of-state tuition.
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  • Florida high school graduates have been able to pay in-state tuition at public institutions since 2014, regardless of immigration status.
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis hopes to remove that benefit this year.
  • The change may impact an estimated 40,000 students in the state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants all undocumented Floridians to pay out-of-state tuition starting this year.

The Republican governor's proposed legislation would repeal a 2014 law that allows thousands of undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at any of the state's public colleges and universities. Forcing these students to pay out-of-state tuition would likely triple their tuition costs.

DeSantis billed the proposal as a way to increase revenue for institutions and stem potential tuition increases.

"Why would we subsidize non-U.S. citizens when we want to make sure we got to keep it affordable for our own people?" DeSantis said during a press conference.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, a fellow Republican who signed the out-of-state tuition waiver in 2014 as Florida's previous governor, disagrees with DeSantis' proposal. He recently told the Florida Phoenix that the 2014 bill is something he "would sign again today" if given the chance.

The current out-of-state tuition waiver applies to Floridians who spent at least three consecutive years in a Florida high school and graduated from high school in the state. These students must enroll in a public college or university within two years of graduation.

If passed, DeSantis' legislation would have a sizable impact across the state.

The Higher Ed Immigration Portal estimates there are 40,000 undocumented students in colleges and universities in Florida. An estimated 5,000 undocumented students graduate high school in the state each year.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be substantial. At the University of Florida, for example, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2023-2024 academic year is $6,380. Out-of-state tuition is $28,658 — more than quadruple the in-state price.

DeSantis' proposal is also significant as it reverses a trend that had been spreading across the U.S. As more states have begun to extend in-state tuition to undocumented students — including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — Florida would be among the first to take this benefit away from students.

An Arizona ballot initiative recently extended in-state tuition to undocumented college students for the first time. The measure made it onto the ballot with bipartisan support.