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Florida Divided on In-State Tuition for Undocumented Aliens, Backs It for Veterans

March 25, 2014 - 7:00pm

A University of North Florida (UNF) poll released on Wednesday finds Florida somewhat divided on giving undocumented immigrants in-state tuition but supporting other tuition proposals in Tallahassee.

The survey shows 33 percent strongly support the proposal to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition while 17 percent say they somewhat support it. But 29 percent strongly oppose the idea and 11 percent somewhat oppose it. With the backing of Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, a bill giving in-state tuition to undocumented aliens living in the Sunshine State passed the Florida House earlier this month. Its fate remains uncertain in the Florida Senate where it has garnered the opposition of President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

The poll shows Florida backs efforts to give veterans in-state tuition for colleges and universities across the Sunshine State. As part of the Florida GI Bill, giving veterans in-state tuition was a chief legislative priority for both Gaetz and Weatherford. The poll finds 55 percent of those surveyed strongly support the proposal while 14 percent say they somewhat support it. Only 16 percent say they strongly oppose giving in-state tuition to veterans while 6 percent somewhat oppose the idea.

But Florida remains divided on tuition proposals even as Gov. Rick Scott took off the gloves to attack former Gov. Charlie Crist, his likely Democratic opponent in November, for raising tuition during his term in office. While 14 percent of those surveyed want to keep tuition and state funding for higher education at their current levels, 20 percent say tuition should go up to national averages. A quarter of those surveyed -- 25 percent -- want to cut tuition while increasing state funding for higher education and 28 percent want to keep tuition where it currently is while increasing state funds for higher education.

With the state government currently paying 75 percent of higher education costs, the poll finds Floridians are divided on that level of funding. While 38 percent of those surveyed believe the state should cover 70 percent to 80 percent of the cost of higher education, 38 percent believe it should cover 41 percent to 50 percent of the costs. Only 7 percent say the state should fund 40 percent or less of higher education costs.

A proposal to spend $321 million to improve college and university facilities gets the support of Floridians with 35 percent saying they strongly support the idea and 25 percent somewhat supporting it. Only 14 percent somewhat oppose it while 15 percent say they strongly oppose it.

The poll of 565 Floridians was taken March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.12 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at

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