Tina Polsky, Kelly Skidmore propose out-of-state fee waivers for college students in sober living homes

'It's about removing barriers.'

The Sunshine State has a billion-dollar drug treatment industry, particularly South Florida, where thousands arrive yearly from across the country to get clean and renew their lives.

For some, that means pursuing college or vocational degrees. For those who don’t live here, however, that also means paying out-of-state fees.

Two South Florida state lawmakers want to change that.

Sen. Tina Polksy and Rep. Kelly Skidmore this week introduced twin bills (SB 396 and HB 191) that would waive out-of-state fees for up to 50 college-age students living in recovery residences or sober living homes.

“Anything we can do to help those in recovery attain their education goals and strive towards a better future is a win-win for them, society, and Florida Colleges,” Polsky said in a written statement.

If enacted, state colleges, school district career centers and charter technical career centers would gain the option to waive out-of-state fees for students living in recovery residences who work at least 20 hours per week within the state.

To receive a waiver, a student must provide written or electronic verification of their residency in a sober living facility. The verification would have to include a lease agreement signed by the student and the operator of the recovery residence, as well as an affidavit signed by a certified recovery residence administrator or clinical supervisor.

The student, if approved for the waiver, would be able to forgo paying out-of-state fees for one academic year. To renew the wavier after that, the student would have to maintain a cumulative 2.5 grade point average or higher and resubmit the required verification materials.

Schools would be responsible for reporting to the Florida Board of Education the number and value of all fee waivers granted yearly.

Skidmore said the legislation is “about removing barriers.”

“We have a real opportunity to help those who are living and working in Florida and are serious about recovery and furthering their education to achieve lasting success,” she said.

The legislation, which if enacted would go into effect July 1, 2022, is the brainchild of college student Matan Siskind, who won Polsky and Skidmore’s annual bill-writing contest, “It Ought to be a Law.”

He submitted the idea last year while attending Palm Beach State College. He’s now a pre-law student at the University of Virginia, according to his LinkedIn page.

“This fee waiver provides greater access to educational opportunities,” he said, “and (it) will have a considerable impact on the recovery goals of those who take advantage of it.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

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