Last week, the Georgia Board of Regents decided to effectively ban undocumented students from attending 5 of the 61 Universities and Technical College Systems of Georgia starting in the fall of 2011 through a series of admissions provisions. Georgia becomes the second state (after South Carolina) to attempt to prevent undocumented students from attending its universities. This effort comes despite the fact that of the 310,000 students in the Georgia system, only 501 are undocumented—all of whom pay out of state tuition (which more than covers the cost of their instruction).

The new policy effected by the Board comes in the wake of recommendations made by the recently formed Residency Verification Committee, which is attempting to make sure public universities aren’t being “swamped” by undocumented students, Georgia taxpayers aren’t subsidizing these students through in-state tuition, and undocumented students aren’t taking spots from academically qualified Georgians.

These concerns were brought to light after the plight of Jessica Colotl, a Kennesaw State University student was made public this past summer (she was arrested for driving without a license and ordered to be deported). To address these concerns, four new provisions were added to prevent undocumented students from attending Georgia public universities:

  • The addition of language on all applications that outlines the legal penalties for “false swearing,” or knowingly providing incorrect information on the forms.
  • The addition of language on all applications that, for the first time, will require applicants to state whether they are seeking in-state tuition. This will help institutions in making a decision on whether or not additional residency verification is necessary.
  • A policy requirement that USG institutions verify the lawful presence in the United States of any applicant that is admitted. Students who note they are seeking in-state tuition, if not applying for federal financial aid, will be subject to additional verification by the institution.
  • A policy that any person not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any USG institution which, for the two most recent academic years, did not admit all academically qualified applicants.

The policy, on its face, makes no sense for anyone living in Georgia. First, only 501 of 310,000 (or .16% of) Georgian students are actually undocumented. Second, the few undocumented who do attend college in Georgia pay out of state tuition, meaning that they’re in all probability subsidizing the education of Georgia resident students as well as covering their own cost of attendance. Finally, says Eva Cardeles, a sociology student, it makes no sense to “go back to an era where we deny education to a certain group of people.” Financially, logically, and morally, this is a poor decision from the Georgia Board of Regents.

Photo by hyku