Denise-Marie Ordway
10:34 a.m. EDT, April 1, 2014

A bill that would allow undocumented students in Florida to pay the same college tuition rates as state residents gained approval from a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Senate's Judiciary committee passed SB 1400 with only two senators opposing it.

Although the measure seeks to make several changes affecting higher-education costs, the part of the bill that has attracted the most attention focuses on tuition for students whose parents are not legal residents of the state.

A bill that would lower tuition for undocumented college students already has gained approval from the full House. The issue is expected to face a tougher time in the Senate, however. Senate President Don Gaetz opposes it.

Undocumented students would be allowed to pay the same tuition rate at Florida's public colleges and universities as students who are legal residents. Today, undocumented students pay the out-of-state rate, which is more than three times higher than the in-state rate.

For example, Florida residents working toward an associate degree at Orlando's Valencia College pay about $3,000 for 30 credit hours, or two semesters of classes. Undocumented students pay more than $11,000 for the same course load.

Under the bill, undocumented students would qualify for a waiver allowing them to forgo paying out-of-state tuition and fees if they meet certain requirements, including attending a Florida secondary school for three consecutive years before graduating from high school in Florida.

These students would not be eligible for state financial aid, though.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott sent out a statement thanking the Senate committee for passing SB 1400, which also aims to reduce the cost of the Florida Prepaid College Program.,