University first to offer in-state tuition to deferred action students

Madison Fantozzi/News director
madison.fantozzi@fiusm.com

This story published in Florida International University’s Student Media’s The Beacon on Monday, June 24, 2013. You can also read online: http://fiusm.com/2013/06/24/university-first-to-offer-in-state-tuition-to-daca-students/

Junior Paula Zamudio graduated from Coral Gables Senior High in 2007 and received her associate of arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2009. She has been enrolled at the University for four years, but still has three semesters to go before graduating.

The finance and economics major has paid out-of-state tuition for six years while maintaining Florida residency since she was 18 months old.

Beginning fall 2013, the University will be the first public college to offer a non-resident tuition waiver to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, allowing them to pay in-state tuition that is one-third the cost of out-of-state tuition.

“I have been paying out-of-state tuition, hence why I have taken so long to graduate,” Zamudio said.  “But now I will have the chance to be a full-time student and graduate much faster with my degrees.”

Zamudio, a member of Students Working for Equal Rights, became “DACAmented” on Feb. 15, 2013 and has since then secured a job and received her driver’s license.

“Both of these are huge milestones for me,” said Zamudio.  “And now I won’t have to take out anymore family loans or use credit cards to pay for tuition.”

She plans to apply for the waiver and enroll full-time for fall 2013.

The University began waiving out-of-state tuition for undocumented students in the spring.

Nicolas Wulff was one of the eleven students that waived the out-of-state expense. The junior political science major enrolled at the university in fall 2012 after a three-and-a-half-year stint at Miami Dade College.

“It was a lot of money,” said Wulff. “But I considered myself one of the lucky ones because most undocumented individuals do not get the chance to attend higher education.”

Approximately 192,000 students, 9 percent of potential Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act beneficiaries, live in the state of Florida, which ranked third in size of its unauthorized immigrant population in 2012.

Each year about 5,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from Florida high schools, but only 5 percent go on to college. The high tuition rate for these students has been a deterring factor.

“This new policy means that potentially hundreds of DREAMers that did not have a way to continue their education will now have an affordable path to university,” said Wulff.

With the new tuition waiver, DACA students will remain classified as “out-of-state” students, but the non-resident portion of their tuition will be waived.

Students must submit a non-resident tuition waiver application along with an unexpired USCIS form I-797, Notice of Deferred Action.

Students must be enrolled in a degree-seeking program on or after spring 2013, and must have graduated from a Florida high school or attended a state college or university for 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of classes.

Law professor Ediberto Roman advocated for the waiver and hopes the University has set a precedent for other schools to follow.

“Miami is the epicenter for issues on immigration,” said Roman.  “And we want our institution to be at the forefront to set the record straight.”

Roman argued that the Board of Governors’ guidelines allows students with legal standing to qualify for in-state tuition. The guidelines originally required that parents have legal status if students are dependents, but that rule was deemed unconstitutional on Sept. 4, 2012 in federal court.

Less than a year later, Roman has helped secure another victory for immigrant students.

“We want to be the spokespeople for the DREAMers and the young people,” said Roman.

After meeting with legal and immigration experts, the University determined the action was allowed under state law.

“It was a unanimous feeling among the general counsel, enrollment services, President Rosenberg and myself that this was the direction we wanted to go in,” said Provost Douglas Wartzok.

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