A new bill introduced in the Florida legislature on Thursday could repeal a 2014 law that provides waivers granting in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants at the state’s public colleges and universities.

Introduced by Representative Randy Fine, the bill questions the need for a “$45 million subsidy” for undocumented immigrants, pushing to end the tuition waiver as the pandemic challenges academic institutions to make tough choices.

Sixteen states and seven university systems offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students by virtue of state legislation. Thanks to state funding, in-state fees are usually one-half to one-third of out-of-state rates.

Fine’s Argument 

As of now, the law extends tuition benefits to undocumented students who have either attended a secondary school within the state for three years, applied for college enrollment within two years of completing high school, or submitted a transcript from a Florida high school as proof of graduation.

The new bill, if it becomes law, will make such students ineligible for in-state tuition aid.

Defending the bill, Fine said it does not intend to penalize immigrant students. However, the economic recession has hit the state hard, making it impossible to afford $45 million for “parents’ bad decisions.” 

“We charge American students from the other 49 states and Puerto Rico the full-price to provide them with the nation’s top-rated public education – three times our subsidized Florida resident rates – but students who are in this country illegally get a sweetheart deal,” he wrote on Facebook.

The new bill hopes to reduce the state’s financial burden, putting “Floridians first,” he said.

Fine’s bill is one of the many developments which have brought student’s concerns about tuition rates into sharper focus. In November, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said he is considering the state’s first tuition increase in seven years while students across the country have been rallying for reduced tuition after colleges switched to online classes last fall.