Texas and Florida Lawmakers Move to Repeal In-State Tuition
FAIR Take | February 2021
Legislators in America’s second and third most populous states, Texas and Florida, are taking aim at their current policies of providing the in-state tuition rate to illegal alien college students. Not only does this practice violate federal law, discriminate against out-of-state American citizens and legal immigrants, and act as a magnet for additional illegal immigration, it also costs these states' taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant economic downturn making it even harder to afford college tuition.
The Lone Star State was the first state to grant in-state tuition to illegal aliens, in 2001. Under the so-called “Texas Dream Act” passed that year, illegal aliens qualified for this benefit if they had lived in Texas for at least three years, graduated from a Texas high school, and promised to apply for legal status as soon as possible (which generally is not possible). While legislation to repeal the “Texas Dream Act” has been introduced every year since at least 2015, the bills have not had much success. Only the more conservative Senate has advanced the legislation out of committee. The House has never even held a hearing on the “Texas Dream Act.”
This year, State Representatives Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) and Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) have promised to introduce a bill to repeal the Dream Act. In a statement, Cason said “Texans’ tax dollars should not be used to reward and encourage illegal immigration to our state and nation,” while Slaton added that the legislature should not continue funding such “magnets" for illegal immigration at taxpayer expense.
The Texas Legislature convened on January 11 and is scheduled to adjourn on May 31. Committee chairs have not yet been assigned, which could determine the fate of the bill. The legislature only meets in regular session every other year, so if the bill doesn’t pass by May, Texans would likely have to wait until 2023 to have another chance to stop subsidizing illegal alien college students with their tax dollars.
Governor Greg Abbott (R) has not yet publicly weighed in on the bill: some opponents have speculated that he might veto it. Previous Republican governors Rick Perry and George W. Bush were both supportive of the Dream Act.
The Sunshine State adopted in-state tuition considerably more recently than Texas, with a bipartisan bill that passed in 2014 and was signed into law by former Governor Rick Scott (R). That law, much like Texas, grants in-state tuition to illegal aliens who’ve lived in Florida for at least three years and graduated from a Florida high school.
State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) pre-filed House Bill (HB) 6037 on January 21, which would repeal the 2014 law.
He says that “[w]ith a multi-billion dollar projected budget deficit, Florida can no longer afford to spend $45 million a year on college and university subsidies for families who came to this country illegally … 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.”
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) has indicated recently that given the current economic outlook, significant tuition hikes are likely for the first time in ten years. While a companion bill to Rep. Fine's House bill has not yet been filed in the Senate, Fine anticipates that one will be soon.
The Florida Legislature is scheduled to convene on March 2 and go until April 30, but committees are already considering bills beforehand in the interim. HB 6037 has not yet been referred to any committees or calendared for a hearing.