Georgia Seeks to Grant In-State Tuition For Illegal Aliens, Florida To Repeal It
FAIR Take | November 2021
Two neighboring states are seeing movement in their state legislatures in opposite directions on the issue of in-state college tuition for illegal aliens. In Georgia, a bill is moving that would require in-state tuition. However, Florida which has granted in-state tuition to illegal aliens since 2014, is seeking to repeal it.
Currently, Georgia does not grant in-state tuition rates at its public colleges and universities to illegal aliens. While in-state tuition bills have been introduced in previous state legislative sessions, they have not advanced because they have all been sponsored by members of the Democratic minority. This year, an in-state tuition bill introduced by Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton) moved and could advance even further next year.
Carpenter’s in-state tuition bill, House Bill (HB) 120, which was introduced in January 2021, only applied to recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. DACA recipients have their potential deportation “deferred” but are still illegal aliens. According to some indications, approximately 30,000 DACA recipients in Georgia currently aged between 18 and 29 would qualify.
HB 120 was amended and voted out of the Georgia House Higher Education Committee on March 31. The amendments exempted the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech from the in-state tuition provisions and permitted individual schools to charge DACA students up to 110 percent of the in-state rate (so while this rate is higher than what citizens or legal aliens would pay, it is much lower than the out of state tuition rate).
The House Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent reviewed the bill on October 21. During this review, several illegal aliens urged legislators to advance the bill next year. In Georgia, bills “carry over” from one session to the next, so HB 120 could be considered at any point before the 2022 regular session adjourns, which is currently scheduled for March 31, 2022.
According to College Tuition Compare, for the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition and fees for colleges in Georgia is $4,739 for in-state students and $17,008 for out-of-state. Out-of-state students pay $12,269 more annually (approximately three and a half times more).
In 2017, FAIR estimated that Georgia taxpayers spend $2.5 billion on costs from illegal immigration. Providing illegal aliens with in-state tuition would only increase that financial burden.
To date, a companion bill to HB 120 has not been introduced in the Georgia Senate. This could be a sign that even if the bill passed the House, the more conservative upper chamber would not consider it. Governor Brian Kemp (R) has not publicly shared his position on in-state tuition. While he campaigned against illegal immigration in 2018, he has not been vocal on the issue since taking office.
Florida has provided in-state tuition to illegal aliens since 2014. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) after contentious debate in the legislature. The law makes illegal aliens who’ve lived in Florida for at least three years and graduated from a Florida high school eligible for the in-state tuition rate. Recently, there have been moves to reverse this decision.
At the beginning of 2021, Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) introduced HB 6037, a bill that would eliminate in-state tuition for illegal aliens. When he introduced the bill he said that “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.”
However, the bill did not receive a committee hearing and died when the legislature adjourned on April 30. Unlike Georgia, bills do not carry over from session to session in Florida.
On October 18, Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Howey-In-The-Hills) pre-filed a new bill, HB 6055, for the 2022 legislative session that will start on January 11. This bill is identical to Rep. Fine’s previous bill to eliminate in-state tuition for illegal aliens.
HB 6055 has not yet been referred to committee. However, Rep. Sabatini has had a tumultuous relationship with House leadership which could stall the bill in the House. If a Senate companion bill was filed, it would increase the chances of the legislation to prohibit in-state tuition advancing.
FAIR estimates Florida spends $6.29 billion on costs from illegal immigration. If legislation to repeal the in-state tuition law passes, the amount Florida taxpayers spend on illegal immigration would be reduced.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has not taken a public position on HB 6055 but given his strong opposition to illegal immigration, he would likely sign it into law.