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Out-of-State Gators: You Might be Able to Lower Your Tuition

If you’re from out of state and your grandparents live in Florida here’s some good news: On March 8, a state House panel advanced a proposal that would allow students from outside of Florida to pay in-state tuition at public universities.

The legislation (HB 1273), called the “grandparent tuition waiver bill,” was sponsored by Representative Patt Maney, a Shalimar Republican. It was approved by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and, as of March 10, has been referred to the Education and Employment Committee.

For out-of-state students to qualify for the lower tuition, they must enroll in a state university in the semester after graduating, have a high school diploma and an SAT or ACT score in the 89th percentile or higher.

Not only would out-of-state students be eligible for in-state tuition, but the waiver would be applicable to 110% of a degree program’s required credit hours. Basically, students enrolled in a 120-credit hour bachelor’s program would get a 132-credit hour waiver.

In order to get the waiver, the student must prove their relationship to their grandparent with a written document. Also, the grandparent has to be a legal full-time Florida resident, so snowbirds’ grandchildren would not be qualified. Maney is reworking a draft defining “grandparent” for the bill.

Florida has the second-highest senior population by percentage in the nation, with one in five residents being 65 or older.

“The intention of this bill is to use that connection to recruit outstanding students to come to Florida, get sand between their toes, get educated and stay here and help our workforce,” Maney said. The bill seeks to bring in the nation’s best students, which would boost the rankings and ratings of state schools.

Though HB 1273 received a unanimous 15-0 vote from the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, it met some opposition in its vote from the House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee on March 3. Three democrats opposed the bill.

Opposers of the legislation said that it will negatively impact students from Florida who want to attend an in-state university. With more students from other states applying to state schools, it will be harder for Florida students to get into those schools. Also, with SB 86 in the Senate threatening to cut certain students from Bright Futures, they feel that the state government is more worried about helping students from outside of Florida than their own.

“Once again, I keep seeing this contradictory reality where we’re talking about allowing top-performing students from out-of-state to come to the state of Florida,” said Representative Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat. “But on the other end, we are proposing policies to cut Bright Futures that would impact students in Florida that meet those same percentages. So, you can’t have it both ways.”

Florida lawmakers have been proposing a slew of new bills that would affect the education system. Not only is there the Bright Futures bill and now the grandparent tuition waiver bill, but there has also been HB 845 and HB 1261. These two bills seem to be following the same timeline as the grandparent waiver bill and are sitting in the Education and Employment Committee.

HB 845 was sponsored by Representative David Springs, a Winter Springs Republican, and would aim to offer military veterans, active-duty service members and nontraditional students free online courses and tuition discounts if they are enrolled at a Florida university.

Tampa Republican Representative Jackie Toledo is the sponsor of HB 1261, which would create a BOGO option for higher-level courses in a program that will lead to a career field that is in demand.

If passed, all of these bills would go into effect on July 1.

Lauren Cooney is a junior at the University of Florida, where she studies journalism with a sports and media specialization and psychology. She is a features writer for Her Campus UFL, and she also volunteers with UF's video production team GatorVision.
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