Immigrants and In-State Tuition

April 29, 2016

In March, immigrant would-be students in Georgia attempted to challenge the state’s university system. Why? The university system currently doesn’t allow immigrants to take advantage of in-state tuition. Children are often brought to the country as children and then permitted to stay temporarily. However, the state is only required to ensure that they have access to high school tuition.

For example, in the case Olvera et al v. University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, the court decided that the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents could not be sued based upon sovereign immunity. This is despite the fact that the trend across the country is to provide tuition to unauthorized immigrant students— either through state legislation or through state university systems.

Only six states, including Georgia, refuse to provide in-state tuition benefits for these students. In Georgia, in 2010, the University Board of Regents passed a regulation regarding unauthorized immigrants’ admission to universities. Now, all universities within the Georgian university system are required to verify that all students are there lawfully.

It has to be asked, however, whether these rules are actually productive for the state. Not only do most states not have any similar restrictions, but it is a fact that states now need to be competitive. This means ensuring that their young people are well educated, regardless of their immigrant status. The Georgetown Public Policy Institute has noted that by 2020, at least 65% of jobs across the United State will need people with education that goes beyond high school.

Many undocumented immigrants work in professional jobs, the Pew Research Center has noted. This means that they are likely to pay higher taxes. Currently, Georgia law is trapping bilingual, enthusiastic students and citizens in low-wage jobs. This could prove to be a counter-productive and unfair move not only for them, but also for the citizens and taxpayers of Georgia.

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