OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - College officials and immigrant advocates are pushing for state legislation that would let undocumented students in Florida pay in-state college tuition rates.
On Tuesday, the new bill passed through one of several Senate committees reviewing it. It will now head to the Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
At Valencia College, in-state college tuition costs roughly $1,200 per semester, but for undocumented students, tuition increases to about $5,000 each semester.
Thousands of students who graduate high school in Osceola County will never make it to college because they're undocumented residents. Jose Abastida said paying for college is an uphill battle.
"The American Dream is possible but it's very hard," Abastida said.
Abastida has lived in Florida since he was 12, but because he is undocumented he's ineligible for in-state tuition rates, financial aid and many scholarships.
"I worked landscaping jobs, side jobs with my parents, car washes and it took me a year but it was worth it," Abastida said.
Abastida plans to speak up for thousands of students like him by testifying for a Senate committee considering a bill that will offer in-state tuition to undocumented students.
State Rep. John Tobia said his main concern about the bill is cost.
"Texas passed similar legislation about 10 or 11 years ago and there was an immediate impact on the budget of $25 million a year," Tobia said.
Abastida will head to Tallahassee with the support of several of his fellow students and school leaders.
"These students are our valedictorians, they're our athletes in our high schools, they're our scholars," said Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia's Osceola campus.
Supporters say it is wrong to deny help to those who were brought to Florida when they were children.
The legislation faces opposition in the state Senate. Some Republicans say Florida should not give a benefit to someone whose family broke the law.