The Florida House has passed HB 851, a bill that will allow illegal aliens who have attended high school in Florida consecutively for four years to be eligible for resident in-state tuition rates at Florida public colleges and universities. Supporters of immigration reform celebrated it as a win in the fight to give equal rights to those aliens already in the United States. These immigrants "deserve an opportunity to continue their education and pay the same prices as their high school classmates and neighbors," opined the Tampa Bay Times.
Now, the companion bill is making its way through the state Senate; a hearing was scheduled for this morning in the House Judiciary Committee. But if the legislation passes, one group is saying that legal residents will be unfairly impacted.
If illegal immigrants get the tuition breaks and more of them enroll in college, native-born and legal residents of Florida will be displaced, says the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), because capacity at the schools is not being expanded.
FAIR released a report arguing that if bill HB 851 is passed, it will cost Florida taxpayers $21.7 million in the first year, with an expected rise in subsequent years as more illegal aliens take advantage of the law's provisions.
SB 1400 requires only three years of consecutive attendance at a Florida high school before graduation to qualify for in-state tuition rates. FAIR estimates that the fiscal impact of bill SB 1400 would be even higher than the impact HB 851 would bring.
FAIR estimates that on average, 8,785 illegal aliens graduate from Florida public high schools each year, with 560 of those graduates going on to attend four-year public universities in the state. FAIR estimates HB 851 will have a fiscal cost of $21.7 million and displace 5,026 legal students, while bill SB 1400 will displace 5,175 legal students and cost an estimated $22.7 million.
You can read the full FAIR report on the reported impact of HB 851 and SB 1400 here.