Previously, Florida used to charge out-of-state tuitions to students who were legal residents, but whose parents were not. All that changed on Tuesday when U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore held that the practice is against the equal protection clause of the constitution, which says people in similar circumstances should be treated alike.
In his judgment, Moore wrote, “The state regulations deny a benefit and create unique obstacles to attain public post-secondary public education for U.S. citizen children who would otherwise qualify for in-state tuition.”
Rep. Reggie Fullwood D-Jacksonville said the ruling should end the “ridiculous policy” in the state. Fullwood had earlier carried a legislative attempt to offer in-state tuition to students whose parents were undocumented. He said, “The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has refused to dismantle this glaring inequity in college admissions policy … The bottom line is simple: A U.S. citizen should be treated like a U.S. citizen regardless of who their parents are.”
Last year, in-state tuitions for students were about $5,500, while it was about $20,000 for out-of-state students. The Southern Poverty Law Center, on behalf of several students whose parents were undocumented, filed the present lawsuit.
Jerri Katzerman, the deputy legal director of the group said, “Today is a great day for these young people across the state of Florida who simply wanted the opportunity to get an education and, with that, a chance for the American Dream.”
In early March, the defendants, including former Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson, had argued that the current practice was not unconstitutional because the state is not required, for purposes of in-state tuition, to treat as equals both students whose parents were undocumented and students whose parents were in the United States legally.
But the court held, it was the question of the legal resident status of the student which should be taken into account and not the status of his/her parents.