Currently in the Florida Legislature, there is a proposed bill to prohibit foreign students at state universities and colleges from receiving affordable access to higher education.
State lawmakers must understand that providing access to higher education to talented international students ultimately benefits the overall economic health and well-being of our state.
The irony that Florida has a publicly funded university named Florida International University but does not support affordable access to higher education is disappointing.
To lawmakers who suggest not providing international students with access to receive their education at in-state tuition cost, I strongly suggest you find a way to repay every international student who is currently enrolled in higher education and repay them for all of the money they have contributed to our state’s economy.
As student body president of Florida A&M University, I have observed the negative impact that will arise if international students are denied access to affordable education.
In 2004-2005, foreign students pumped $626 million into Florida’s economy. But lawmakers like Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, continue to advocate taking these essential dollars away from Florida’s economy.
Advocates like Arthur Lugisse have consistently preached to lawmakers that providing access to higher education to foreign students is not a newfound concept. But it is an effective way to improve the quality of life of all stakeholders who utilize the services appropriated by our government.
If the state is going to remain at the cutting edge in cultivating economic growth and expanding constituency access, we must accelerate our efforts to support the ambition of talented international students.
Great Britain has traditionally maintained about half as many international students as the United States. Prime Minister Toni Blair recently committed $8 million to an effort aimed at attracting more international students. France and Germany have committed similar efforts.
The United States stands in stark contrast. First of all, the United States has no organization such as the British Council.
Secondly, the U.S. efforts to capitalize on this market is lacking.
Politicians all over the country who support denying international students affordable education will acknowledge the concept that we live in a global economy.
When talking about providing access to affordable education in America, the issue simply comes down to what is the true priorities of lawmakers. According to the National Priorities Project Database, taxpayers in Florida will pay $856.4 million for nuclear weapons in fiscal year 2006. For the same amount of money, Florida could have provided 308,068 scholarships for university students.
Denying access to higher education to deserving students impacts all.
For example, at FAMU we are currently stabilizing our decline in enrollment through a new aggressive recruitment strategy. If the proposed legislation becomes law, it will have a drastic impact on the funds FAMU receives from the Legislature.
Ramon Alexander is a senior political science student from Tallahassee. He can be reached at Ramon1.Alexander@famu.edu.