Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit Claims Florida Tuition Policy Is Discriminatory

A recently filed lawsuit highlights a very real hurdle facing some Latino students with college aspirations.

As this WSVN-TV piece and New York Times blog explain, the suit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of five Florida students who were born in the United States, yet were charged higher tuition because they could not provide proof of their parents’ legal status and were classified as non-residents. The policy affects students who want to attend a public college or university in Florida, are under 24, and are claimed as dependents on their parents’ income tax returns.

Filed against Florida education officials, the suit claims that the policy is discriminatory and has resulted in overcharging hundreds of students or forcing others to leave school because they could not afford the tuition. The suit asks the Federal District Court to rule that the practice is unconstitutional.

The price difference between in-state and non-resident tuition is considerable: at the University of Florida, residents pay $5,700 a year versus $27,936 for non-residents.

As a community college instructor, I have seen firsthand the financial straits many students face. For some of my students, the price of a textbook can sometimes be insurmountable. Overcoming a $22,000 difference effectively would be impossible.

Four of the plaintiffs were born in Miami and one in Los Angeles. As the New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse notes all of them would be “eligible to be president of the United States.”