As the son of native Italians and a student who grew up in diverse South Florida, I believe it’s essential for the state to recognize the enormous international human capital available here.
Instead of waiting for Washington D.C., to pass immigration-reform measures, Florida can take the lead by alleviating the burden of undocumented college and university students who contribute to our tax system, but pay out-of-state tuition costs. These are students who have graduated from Florida high schools and lived in our state for most of their lives. They were brought here as children, through no fault of their own, and are our classmates, neighbors and friends. Yet, they are frequently priced out of the opportunity to pursue their dreams and contribute to our state’s economy.
It’s also important to clarify a few things in the debate. First, a large portion of a Florida resident’s contribution to the state government comes in the form of sales and property taxes. All Florida residents, legal or undocumented, pay these.
Second, undocumented students who would receive in-state tuition rates would not be eligible for any state financial aid unless they had legal immigration status with the federal government. The notion that undocumented students would be a drain on taxpayers in this situation simply isn’t reinforced by the facts.
Our public higher-education system exists because it’s important to the state. Many of the most highly educated members of our workforce come from it, an attribute that has been considered a public service for generations. It makes no sense for undocumented students to remain in the public education system, only to be abandoned after high school graduation.
This policy doesn’t help the bright individuals who fall into this category, and it certainly doesn’t help a state that then sees these residents fail to achieve their potential.
Whether it’s an undocumented student or a citizen student who goes on to create the next profitable corporation in our state, the economy doesn’t care — the benefit to Florida remains the same. This is how we should approach the in-state tuition issue. We’re competing with 49 other states and an entire global economy. If we truly want Florida to be competitive, we must take an aggressive approach to ensure that the best and brightest minds have the opportunity to help get us there. Until the federal government is able to do something regarding immigration policy, we must resist the urge, as a state, to do nothing.
Carlo Fassi, student representative, Florida Board of Governors, Jacksonville