Georgia Clamps Down on Illegal Immigrants in Colleges

CNN, October 13, 2010

Georgia’s public colleges have adopted new policies that officials say will prevent illegal immigrants from attending five high-demand schools and from being admitted ahead of legally and academically qualified residents at the rest of the state’s public institutions of higher learning.

The State Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges in Georgia, also approved legal penalties for providing incorrect information on tuition-related forms.

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But the new tuition policy, which takes effect in fall 2011, enables Georgia to “strengthen the ability of institutions to properly classify students for tuition purposes,” the board said in a statement after the vote Wednesday.

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The regents want to ensure that undocumented students–no matter how academically qualified they may be–don’t move ahead of academically and legally qualified applicants at schools that for the past two academic years had to reject qualified applicants because of a lack of space or other reasons.

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Under the new policy, illegal immigrants will not be able to attend the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia State University in Atlanta and Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, all of which have turned away students.

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The system’s other 30 colleges and universities will be able to admit undocumented students if they pay out-of-state tuition, which more than covers the cost of educating a student who pays it, and if they are not accepted ahead of qualified students, according to Millsaps [John Millsaps, regents spokesman].

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“Not enough Georgians graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education,” Millsaps said. “We need more Georgians to pursue higher education.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia decried the vote and said undocumented college students are “by and large talented high achievers who arrived in the U.S. as children because of the choices their parents made. They grew up in this country and persevered against the odds” to graduate from high school.

The ACLU also argues federal databases used for some legal status verification are error-filled.

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