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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

While many students are celebrating the long-awaited disbursement of financial aid, others are just excited they can start paying less for tuition.

A federal judge ruled Friday that Florida’s public universities can no longer charge out-of-state tuition to children of undocumented workers living in Florida. Although decided in Miami, this move excited civil rights advocates and immigration activists all across the state.

UF economics senior Victor Yengle said he’s ecstatic. The 23-year-old moved from Peru to the U.S. at about age 12 and has been following the case. He said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

“We knew that it was unconstitutional because it was discriminating against American citizens whose parents happen to be undocumented workers,” Yengle said. “It was quite appalling that this was the case and that officials were siding with that.”

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore cited in his opinion for the case the 14th Amendment, which guarantees U.S. citizens equal protection under the law. Denying in-state tuition to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants would violate that, he wrote.

He wrote students who have lived in Florida as citizens for a year or more should be treated as such  — regardless of their parents’ actions.

When students apply to UF, they’re not directly asked if their parents are U.S. citizens, said spokesman Steve Orlando.

“We would have no way of knowing if these students have parents who are in the country illegally,” he said.

Orlando said he didn’t know how many UF students the ruling will impact or how much the tuition changes could cost the university.

UF students who live in-state pay about $205 per credit hour, but for non-residents, the rate is about $947, according to the State University System of Florida’s website.

Yengle, who is also president CHISPAS, said the next step is offering in-state rates to those who were brought to the U.S. as children.

“This is only the first step in the right direction,” he said.

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Joan Flocks, director of the Levin College of Law Center for Governmental Responsibility’s Social Policy Division, said making college education more financially accessible to these students was the right decision.

“I’m not sure why the state would try to pass a policy like this because it would punish the state more than the individual,” Flocks said.

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