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TheDream.US and Tuition Fairness Florida Offer Gratitude that In-State Tuition Access for Florida Dreamers Remains Intact

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2023 
Contact: Michael Earls: 202-494-8555 

Tallahassee, FL – With the Florida state legislative session concluded for this year, TheDream.US and Tuition Fairness Florida today expressed gratitude that in-state tuition access for Dreamers remains in place.

TheDream.US is the nation’s largest college access and success program for immigrant youth. In Florida, TheDream.US partners with eight Florida colleges and universities who are dedicated to the college and career successes of immigrant students. Thanks in large part to the 2014 in-state tuition waiver, TheDream.US has provided more than 1,150 scholarships to Florida Dreamers, many of whom are now college graduates putting their degrees to work in Florida. Because in-state tuition remains intact, TheDream.US was able to award more than 275 new scholarships to Florida students for the upcoming academic year. TheDream.US Scholars and alumni also were the driving force behind Tuition Fairness, the name of the campaign led by Florida Dreamers highlighting why the in-state tuition waiver law is so important for both Dreamers’ and Florida’s futures. 

According to Gaby Pacheco, Director of Advocacy, Communications, and Development of TheDream.US and a Miami resident involved in the Tuition Fairness campaign: 

We thank the Florida legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, who helped ensure that in-state tuition will remain an option for Florida Dreamers. Most of all, we thank TheDream.US Scholars and alumni, including the leaders of the Tuition Fairness campaign, whose powerful stories and tireless advocacy made the case for why in-state tuition access is so important for Florida’s future. While we offer our gratitude to those who preserved this important state policy, we stand in solidarity with many of our friends and allies who are affected by other, harmful state policies that did pass this session.

As an example of the powerful stories shared as part of the Tuition Fairness campaign, see this new video HERE featuring a TheDream.US alum, Cesia Bulnes, singing the national anthem at her Florida International University graduation. Cesia, who graduated with a degree in Computer Science, now works as an Engineer and says, “I would not have been able to achieve what I have today without in-state tuition and TheDream.US.” As the video highlights, supporting Dreamers like Cesia is good for Florida.

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald published a recent story on the effort to preserve in-state tuition access: “Dreamers may not be able to vote, but they convinced GOP lawmakers to aid their cause” (El Nuevo Herald version here). Several excerpts are below:

“They attended Florida public schools and grew up undocumented in different pockets of the state after being brought to the country by their parents as children. For nine weeks in a row, dozens of these young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, traveled to Tallahassee to meet with Florida lawmakers. Every week, they traveled hours by car, from cities like Miami and Orlando, to urge legislators to protect a 2014 law that has allowed them to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. 

…“Although we stopped it this year, I feel like I have to continue to fight the battle to make sure it doesn’t happen next year and the years that follow,” state Rep. Vicki Lopez, a Miami Republican, told the Herald/Times Friday. 

Among Republican lawmakers, there was a mix of vocal and quiet opposition to repealing the in-state tuition waiver, Lopez said. The Miami-Dade delegation was key in fighting it, she added. The law is part of the legacy of DeSantis’ own lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nuñez, who championed the policy in 2014 when she served in the Florida House. That dynamic added another reason for some Republicans to oppose the repeal effort. 

But Lopez said the Dreamers were instrumental in defeating the proposal. “You could talk with them about their lives and how hopeful they were with seeking a higher education and what their dreams were for themselves and their families. Once you humanize an issue it is hard to not see it through their perspective,” Lopez said.

…Britney Ortiz, a 20-year-old Orlando student who is poised to graduate from Valencia State College on Sunday, said she traveled to Tallahassee every single week during the legislative session. She met with dozens of lawmakers. She came to the United States at the age of 3. “I learned about the power that our voices hold,” Ortiz said. “Since we can’t vote, sometimes it is hard to get our voices heard. But we can’t be hiding, we have to speak up.

…Maria Tinoco, a 24-year-old Dreamer who last week graduated as a mechanical engineer from FIU, said the fight is not over. “Although we were successful,” she said, “there is still a lot of work to be done.””

  • Read more about Cesia and the Florida Dreamers involved in advocating for in-state tuition HERE
  • See TheDream.US designed fact sheet with stories and statistics about why Florida’s in-state tuition waiver is important for Florida Dreamers and Florida’s future HERE
  • Read “Please don’t take away Dreamers’ in-state tuition,” an Op-Ed in the Orlando Sentinel from Britney Ortiz, a TheDream.US Scholar from Valencia College

Visit the TuitionFairness Florida website at: TuitionFairness.com

ABOUT US:

Tuition Fairness are TheDream.US alumni, current scholars, and staff working together to educate people on why the in-state tuition waiver provides attainable access to a college education. Our mission is to educate Floridians about the importance of the 2014 law, which provides a fair college education through the Dreamer in-state tuition waiver. Through our stories of success, and data, we hope to demonstrate how this law has helped us contribute positively to the economic richness of our home state of Florida.