Florida CAN: Helping Undocumented Students Attend College

November 16, 2015

By: Lisa King, NCAN communication consultant  - originally posted to the Florida College Access Network blog and is modified with permission

In July 2014, Florida House Bill 851 passed into law, making Florida the 17th state to allow eligible Florida high school graduates to pay in-state college tuition rates regardless of their or their parents’ immigration status. According to a new report by NCAN member Florida College Access Network, 2,475 students utilized the out-of-state tuition waiver to attend 31 different state colleges and universities in Florida in the first year since the law became effective. The cost of out-of-state tuition is, on average, more than double that of in-state tuition at Florida colleges and universities.

In one year’s time, the tuition equity bill significantly eased the financial barriers for thousands of Florida high school graduates. The quick results should serve as a reminder to other college access and success programs why we work hard for policy change at the state and federal level.

Although these one-year results are promising, there are likely many more students who do not know about the tuition waiver or have difficulty accessing the application. As the state leader in college access, Florida CAN recognizes their work is not done and is already hard at work providing recommendations to streamline the process by replacing the waiver application with a simple modification to the Florida Financial Aid Application (FFAA). By adding a single question to the FFAA, students can more easily determine their eligibility for in-state tuition rates. The change would also save colleges time in processing the application; currently, each college is responsible for creating, processing and posting on its website its own version of the waiver form.

Florida CAN also recommends tracking the retention and graduation rates of students utilizing the waiver. Because undocumented students are not eligible for federal and state financial aid, they are less likely to enroll in college full time and are more likely to find themselves in financial stress than many of their peers. Tracking their retention and graduation rates can inform future policy decisions impacting such students.

For more information about advocacy efforts, we encourage you to review NCAN’s policy web pages. NCAN provides members with the resources to do their own advocacy work including issue information, bill tracking and communication tools through their Advocacy Center.

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