Gov. Rick Scott supports a Senate proposal allowing some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates, his office confirmed Wednesday.
The governor is on board with the measure partly because it addresses one of his top legislative priorities: preventing state universities from raising tuition rates above those set by the Florida Legislature.
“I want tuition to be lower,” Scott said. “It’s unbelievable how much tuition has gone up.”
The House version of the immigrant tuition bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez of Miami, does not currently restrict the ability of colleges and universities to set tuition rates. But lawmakers will consider adding a similar provision.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, who has made immigrant tuition one of his top priorities this year, said he was encouraged by Scott’s support.
“The governor has shown great compassion by working to prevent children from being punished for the mistakes of their parents,” said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “I appreciate his support and look forward to working with him.”
Florida lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to extend in-state tuition rates to undocumented students for more than a decade.
The conversation gained momentum in the Florida Capitol this year, thanks largely to Weatherford’s support.
There has also been a groundswell of support on college and university campuses. Both Florida International University and Miami Dade College already grant partial tuition waivers to students who participate in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And students at the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida State University are pressing their trustees to enact similar policies.
Observers had been watching to see where Scott would fall on the issue.
He has taken a hard-line position on immigration issues in the past. Last year, Scott vetoed a bill passed with near unanimous support in the House and Senate that would have helped some children of undocumented immigrants obtain temporary driver’s licenses.
Now that Scott is running for reelection against former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, he finds himself in a difficult position.
On one hand, Scott must rally his conservative base. But is also working hard to court Hispanic communities.