Students rally in opposition to aid cuts

Tallahassee students assembled at the Florida Capitol to appeal the passing SB 458, that promises to redirect funds from Florida’s international students to supply its residents with added financial aid.

However, a number of serious repercussions would likely result if the bill were to reach the Florida Senate floor. The issue touches upon a number of sensitive areas concerning international relations and diversity.

Since 4 p.m. Tuesday, about 35-40 students, most of who belong to the International Student Association, assembled to voice their concerns to Senate President Tom Lee, R- Hillsborough.

Freshman civil engineering student Malaica Nicolas, 18, from Haiti, said, “We are here hoping that this bill will be appealed. Right now, we are waiting to address the president of the senate.

“We’ve been here since 4 (p.m.) walking up and down, searching for someone to listen to us. All we can do now is wait and pray.”

If passed, the bill will impact over 26,000 international students who have been recruited by colleges across Florida.

Most international students attend accredited schools in the United States with the help of an F1or M1 student visa and assistance from state funds.

They are granted equal status to American citizens and are protected by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The bill’s passing would classify many international students as illegal by changing their financial and legal status.

In doing so, most students would have to either discontinue their education or search for other places to study.

Arthur Lugisse, official St. Maarten representative in the Tallahassee Department of Education, said, “It is imperative that students finish their education here.

I think it is an injustice to bring a student over at one price then simply pull the rug from under their feet.”

Many students think the bill is unfair to those who were recruited by Florida colleges.

Lililita Johnson, 27, a clerk for the City of Tallahassee, said, “This affects me because being the first student from St. Maarten to receive a scholarship under FAMU for the Sister City Agreement, that was a signal between St. Maartens Antilles and Tallahassee.

“And seeing as how I got a partial presidential scholarship, I was able to study music education and theatre as well as contribute to the city.”

While the bill intends to redirect funds from international students with financial aid, there is no evidence to substantiate that such services limit the Florida economy.

In actuality, international students introduce to the economy over several million dollars while taking home with them only their acquired experienced.

Much to the relief of many, Florida Senate Policy Adviser stated that the bill was not yet on the calendar of the senate, and if it is not heard by the next week, it would be dropped until the year.

Pierce went on to say that the senator who introduced the bill could reintroduce it year after year.

The news comes as a reward to the organizations gathered to voice their cause, especially Trinidad resident and Vice President of the International Student Association Satira Maharaj, 19, who organized a petition, which gained over 900 signatures, against the bill.

Senior computer science student and President of ISA Craig Smikle said, “It’s good to see a number of legislators have our interests at heart and international students will be safe from the bill, at least for now.”

This feeling was shared by most as they exited the Capitol.

“I feel very positive in the sense the all of the senators treat the bill as though it’s going nowhere,” said Lugisse. “I left knowing it was something very positive.”

Contact Reginald Alceus at