Lawsuit: Fla. Students Charged as Non-Residents

By October 20, 2011

A highly controversial topic. What do you think?
MIAMI (AP) – October 19, 2011 –
State university officials are being sued by students who are Florida residents but are charged out-of-state tuition because their parents are suspected of being illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center
names five students who were born in the United States, have a
Florida high school diploma, driver’s license and other proofs of
state residency.
Yet when each went to enroll in a Florida college or university,
they were classified as a “non-resident” because their parents
are not legal immigrants. They were charged significantly higher
tuition and several could not afford to study full time. Some
abandoned their studies altogether.
The lawsuit was filed against the Florida education commissioner
and university system chancellor. It states the policy
discriminates against citizens and violates the constitution.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal class action lawsuit today on behalf of several aspiring college students challenging state policies that deny in-state college tuition rates to students who are U.S. citizens living in Florida but who cannot prove the lawful immigration status of their parents – an unconstitutional practice that more than triples the cost of tuition.
“These policies attack our most fundamental American values by punishing children for the actions of their parents,” said Jerri Katzerman, director of educational advocacy for the SPLC. “It’s an unconscionable attack on students from immigrant families that more than triples the cost of a college education.”
According to the lawsuit, policies of the Florida State Board of Education and the Florida Board of Governors treat U.S. citizen students who are residents of Florida as non-residents solely because the students’ parents are undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit charges that this discriminates against U.S. citizen children because of the immigration status of their parent and is unconstitutional.
The difference in tuition is staggering. At Miami Dade College, the cost per term in the two-year associate degree programs is $1,265.76 for residents, compared to $4,523.64 for students classified as nonresidents. The cost per term in the four-year baccalaureate programs is $1,399.68 for residents, compared to $6,246.24 for nonresidents.
Nonresident students would have to pay $6,515.76 more in tuition and fees per year toward an associate’s degree, and $9,693.12 more toward a bachelor’s degree than a resident student.
Such discriminatory practices have placed unjustified burdens on these students. Many talented American students who live in Florida either delay or completely forego a college education due to the higher tuition rates that result from being wrongly classified as “non-residents.”
“These American students went to the same Florida high schools, held down the same part-time jobs and participated in the same after-school activities as their counterparts who are granted in-state tuition,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office. “We are simply asking that these students be granted the same rights as all other Florida citizens.”
The lawsuit names as defendants, Gerard Robinson, Florida commissioner of education; and Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the state university system. They are sued in their official capacities.
This lawsuit is part of the SPLC’s effort to reform school policies that unnecessarily push students out of school or otherwise limit their opportunities for a successful future. These efforts are focused in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.