“My entire education from elementary school to med school has been in Florida. I have known no other home. I hope to be a primary care physician in several years, but if Governor DeSantis has his way, I don’t know how I will be able to afford medical school or pay back the student debt I’ve already taken on to get this far.” — Murilo, Nova Southeastern University medical student
MIAMI – This morning at HistoryMiami Museum, the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) convened Florida Dreamers and leaders in business, higher education, and faith for a roundtable. The students, employers, and community leaders told their own stories about how taking away in-state tuition for Dreamers and other undocumented students at state colleges and universities——one of the items in a package of extreme anti-immigrant proposals revealed last week by Governor DeSantis—will impact them.
In-state tuition for undocumented students was signed into law in 2014 by then-Florida Governor Rick Scott and has since allowed countless such young people to join key state work sectors like healthcare, education and tech, as well as to contribute millions in tax revenues and spending power to the state.
“The overwhelming majority of American voters support educating Dreamers,” said ABIC executive director Rebecca Shi. “It’s really easy to bully undocumented children who can’t vote, but most Americans don’t support taking away education and they don’t like bullies.”
Unable to be on hand at the roundtable but weighing in remotely was Mike Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners and co-chair of ABIC, who said, “Florida would only be handicapping itself by taking away in-state tuition rates for undocumented young people that the state has already invested in for their K-12 years. The whole point of making postsecondary education accessible to them, aside from basic fairness and decency, is to facilitate their going into the fields where Florida most desperately needs future workers, such as healthcare, education, and tech. Not to mention that the more skilled they become and the more they earn, the more they’ll put into state and local tax revenues, not to mention the economy overall.”
“The in-state tuition waiver has allowed our community to have culturally diverse and talented individuals who today are nurses, teachers, and engineers,” said Gaby Pacheco, TheDream.US director of advocacy, development, and communications. “TheDream.US has graduated over 470 students, which translates into millions of dollars in spending power and tax revenue from this educated demographic. Miami has been my home for 30 years and it will continue to be. I am a living example of the power of education. As a former Dreamer, my education opened the doors to now being a homeowner, a head of household, and a leader in my community.”
“It never occurred to me in 2014 that we would be convening again to fight for in-state tuition for Dreamers,” said Miami Dade College President Emeritus Dr. Eduardo Padron. “The legislature was able to find common sense and there are two reasons: fairness, which is a basic American value and the other is that it makes sense because it’s good for the Florida economy. The reason why most Dreamers can get a college degree is due to in-state tuition.”
He continued: “We need to preserve and protect that. At a time when we need thousands more educated and there are thousands of jobs vacant because there aren’t enough people to take the jobs, here we have young people willing to serve the county —and now there’s a proposal to deny them that opportunity. Let’s recognize that so many of the Dreamers that I saw at Miami Dade College are now nurses, doctors, working in tech, some are engineers. In other words, they are people doing the work America needs today.”
“I came to Florida from Brazil when I was three years old,” said Murilo, a first-year medical student at Nova Southeastern University. “My entire education from elementary school to med school has been in Florida. I have known no other home. I hope to be a primary care physician in several years, but if Governor DeSantis has his way, I don’t know how I will be able to afford medical school or pay back the student debt I’ve already taken on to get this far.”
“I am a Floridian,” said Bella, a Dreamer and a junior at Florida International University who asked that her last name be withheld. “I graduated from high school here and lead the youth group at my church. Today I’m a junior studying to become a psychologist because I’ve come to understand how critical mental health resources are to our communities. I have been in Florida for eight years and I’m planning to be here for 80 more. I have one more year to go to finish my undergrad, but being forced to pay out-of-state tuition would make it impossible.”
Speakers underscored both the fairness and the economic pragmatism of maintaining in-state public college tuition rates for Dreamers. “This helps address Florida’s labor shortages and grows our economy and tax revenues,” said Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Florida Director at ABIC. “In fact, Dreamers are key contributors to Florida’s economy. Since 2013, Dreamers in Florida have contributed more than $3.5 billion dollars and paid $329 million dollars in state and local taxes. Similarly, Florida Dreamers’ wages through 2032 will be $19.5 billion and state and local tax contributions will be $15.5 billion. Tuition fairness benefits our economy, our state and our Florida kids!”
In-state public college and university rates for undocumented students who attended Florida public high schools has been a reality in the state since 2014, when it was signed into law by then- Republican Governor Rick Scott. It is a cornerstone of education fairness and equity, having empowered countless Florida Dreamers to build careers in much-needed work sectors including health care, education and tech. But it has also empowered them to earn more, which has translated into higher tax contributions and spending power in the state of Florida. To rescind in-state rates would ultimately result in Florida taking an economic hit in the years to come.
While there is limited data on the economic contributions of all Dreamers in Florida, the economic contributions of the state’s DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) recipients is as follows:
• DACA recipients have paid $329 million into state and local taxes since 2013 and are poised to earn a collective $19.5 billion in wages through 2032, with $19.5 billion of that going to state and local taxes. However, no matter if a person is undocumented or not, they contribute to our education system with the state taxes.
• Earnings for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree average $27,000 and $40,000 higher, respectively, than earnings of peers with only high school diplomas. This added income translates to more tax revenues and more in-state spending.
• Additionally, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants who graduated high school in Florida costs the state little money, as undocumented students make up only 3 percent of the state’s public post-secondary system.
• Florida is one of 23 states (and D.C.) that offer in-state tuition rates to public higher-ed institutions to undocumented immigrants who attended high school in that state.
American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) is a bipartisan coalition of over 1,200+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across 17 mostly red and purple states. ABIC promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, and citizens.