On our unified message, you’ll find the words “we stand in full solidarity with undocumented students as they fulfill their human right to a quality, affordable higher education“–but what does this really mean?
Georgia Students for Public Higher Education believes that no student is illegal. Undocumented students continue struggle for the right to a quality and affordable education and we stand in solidarity with them. Currently, undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition and are banned at five universities. However, HB 59 is a proposal that would prohibit all undocumented students – regardless of academic standing – from attending college in Georgia.
Of the 301,000 students in the University System of Georgia, only 472 students lack full documentation needed to live or work in the United States legally. These students may have entered the country illegally with a parent or guardian at a young age, or they may have simply overstayed a visa. Unlike many other states that offer in-state reduced tuition for all residents, undocumented immigrants in Georgia are economically discouraged from attending academic institutions. As a result, many of them are left with few options that will allow them to thrive in the United States.
Many representatives such as Tom Rice, R-Norcross, who wrote the bill, argue that undocumented students enrolling in public universities will take away spots from other legally documented students. With the data presented, this is not a reasonable conclusion. Undocumented students make up less than one percent of the student body. If there is anything preventing students from enrolling in public universities, it is the increase in class sizes, budget cuts, and lack of resources in the university system.
Legislators claim that undocumented students are the cause of economic and academic hardships current Georgia students are facing, but this is simply not the case. The hardships Georgia students are facing come from Governor Deal, the House Higher Education Committee, the Board of Regents, and the Georgia State Senate’s collective decisions to put profit over students and prevent our fellow students from receiving higher education at all.
Georgia Students for Public Higher Education is vehemently opposed to the attacks on our fellow undocumented students from attending public colleges and universities in Georgia. The passing of this bill will make Georgia the second state in the nation to bar undocumented students from college (the other state being South Carolina). A community Georgia students are being systematically excluded from a crucial public sector in our society.
There is a clear contradiction in passing HB 59 and the Board of Regent’s mission statement which is “to create a more educated Georgia, well prepared for a global, technological society, by providing first-rate undergraduate and graduate education, leading-edge research, and committed public service.” It’s hard not to notice how, by moving this bill into law, the Board of Regents, the House Higher Education Committee, and Governor Deal completely undermine everything in the University System of Georgia vision.