In Florida, More DREAMing Even As Tuitions Soar

Published on January 31st, 2012

By Joe Guzzardi
January 25, 2012

On the Florida primary campaign trail, the DREAM Act refuses to die even though any possible success would be years away. In 2013 a new Congress will be sworn in and would therefore have to re-introduce DREAM legislation and, assuming it could survive after contentious debate, nurse it through the House and Senate. Since the DREAM Act has failed repeatedly over the last decade despite multiple efforts, the odds against its passage are long.

Nevertheless, journalists constantly pepper and cross examine Republican candidates about their DREAM Act positions.

Despite the hoopla surrounding the DREAM Act, whether illegal immigrants get preferential in-state tuition at American universities is not of grave national importance.

On its face, arguments for the DREAM Act are baseless. United States colleges were founded on American soil and funded by American taxpayers. Most major universities have long waiting lists of American kids who have their own dreams and should have first crack at the fixed number of freshman slots.

Foreign-born students who graduate from U.S. high schools have other options. Their native countries have credentialed universities. And despite the moaning about not knowing anyone back home and being separated from family, DREAMers could look at returning as studying abroad, a great adventure and resume enhancer.

The DREAM Act argument in Florida has taken a particularly absurd twist. Next year for the third year in a row, undergraduate students at Florida universities will pay 15 percent higher tuition rates. Various student fees will also increase.

In June, the State University System’s governing board approved a 7 percent tuition increase which came on top of an 8 percent bump which the legislature authorized earlier in 2011. Over the last decade, Florida tuitions have risen by 130 percent.

The increases come during a period when financial aid programs, such as Florida’s popular Bright Futures scholarship, have been cut. The combination of higher tuition and less aid leaves many middle class students ineligible for financial assistance but also unable to pay the full freight, out of luck.

Florida’s legal maximum tuition increase is 15 percent per year, a total many administrators think is inadequate. University of Florida President Bernie Machen, for example, wants the ceiling lifted.

With or without a higher cap, Florida has no end in sight to the tuition increase crisis. Last week, universities disclosed that unless the economy improves significantly, 15 percent hikes will be imposed for each of the next four years.

One method university administrators use to generate additional funds is to recruit foreign-born overseas students who must pay the more expensive out-of-state rate. They live in dorms, eat on campus and, in general, spend more than in-state students. Overseas enrollment is up about 10 percent in the last several years.

Given this period of intense financial difficulty for Florida universities and the pressure on American kids, promoting the DREAM Act is folly.

Nevertheless in President Obama’s State of the Union, he pleaded "….let’s at least agree to stop expelling [deporting] responsible young people…."

Fortunately, most Republican presidential candidates have better sense. They have promised to veto the DREAM Act if it should ever reach their desks.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]

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