By: GALEO Student Intern Jessica Kline
On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents gave their approval for a proposal involving the future of Georgia State University (GSU) and Georgia Perimeter College (GPC). The approved plan will merge GSU, a four-year college in Atlanta with over 31,000 students, and GPC, a two-year community college with approximately 21,000 students . Many believe that this is a positive change for GPC, which has had low graduation rates and a significant number of students transferring to different colleges. What many do not realize, however, is the impact that this change will have on Georgia’s community of undocumented immigrants who have been permitted to stay here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In October of 2010, the Board of Regents approved Policy 4.1.6, which stated that undocumented immigrants could not attend Georgia College and State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Regents University, The University of Georgia, and Georgia State University. This means that unless the current policy were changed, the 420 undocumented students of GPC, would be banned from continuing their education at GSU, removing one of their few remaining options for obtaining a degree.
Even if this policy were to be changed, the merge could still prove to be problematic for undocumented students. In 2010 the Board of Regents also approved Policy 4.3.4 which claimed that, “Any student requesting to be classified as an in-state student for tuition purposes will be required to provide verification of their lawful presence in the United States in order to be classified as an in-state student.” This policy essentially requires undocumented students living in Georgia to pay out-of-state tuition, which can be up to four times as expensive as in-state tuition, and excludes these students from receiving both the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarship. So while undocumented students at Georgia Perimeter College have already been paying more than documented students, approximately $335.60 per credit hour as compared to the $88.67 per credit hour, their tuition is expected to increase dramatically if they are permitted to attend Georgia State. Out-of-state tuition at Georgia State is approximately $877.40 for one credit hour and rises to approximately $13,161.00 for 15 credit hours , almost triple what it would cost at Georgia Perimeter College. In addition to concerns about the financial impact on undocumented students, students are also questioning where the new institution will be located. Perimeter currently oversees five campuses outside of Atlanta, providing many options for their students, while State is located downtown.
Georgia is the only state with partial regulations on undocumented students and this merge has led to many questions involving the immigrant community and whether or not it will further remove undocumented students from Georgia’s education system. While the removal of the policy at Georgia State would be a push in the right direction, it could still lead to an increased financial load on undocumented students and the possibility of limiting rather than expanding their opportunities.