JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- University of North Florida students are leading the fight to help get in-state tuition for students who entered the country illegally as children. The proposal is being discussed in Tallahassee this legislative session.
If they are successful, the proposal would help people like 26-year-old Javier Ricaldi. He moved to Jacksonville from Bolivia as a child, but after graduating from high school, he quickly learned going to college wasn't going to be easy.
"It's too much; I'm trying to save up some money. That's where I'm at right now," said Ricaldi.
Never mind that Ricaldi has temporary legal status under a federal program, known as -Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or that he's lived in Duval County for more than a decade. He does not qualify for in-state tuition.
UNF student government president Carlo Fassi said that's unfair.
"They were brought here because of the their parents, and we feel as a system, the students of this, that they should pay in-state tuition," said Fassi.
Fassi is one of dozens of student university presidents from across the state who are traveling to Tallahassee to push lawmakers to pass legislation that would grant people like Ricaldi in-state tuition rates.
At UNF, the cost per credit-hour for undergraduate Florida residents is $174.12. Out-of -state tuition balloons to $654.25 per credit-hour.
"These are our friends, these are neighbors, these are our classmates," said Fassi. "They're paying just over three times more than students who have to pay in-state tuition."
Ricaldi said he just wants to get an education in the country he calls home.
"It's like they're closing the doors right in front of you," said Ricaldi.
Only two south Florida colleges grant partial tuition waivers to students who have legal status under a federal program. Fassi said he hopes UNF's administration would at least consider something similar.
Recently, Gov. Rick Scott announced he would consider backing a measure to grant in-state tuition for students with temporary legal status.