The expansion for tuition equity has been a topic discussed in Georgia for the past three years. In 2021, Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R. 4th District, Dalton) proposed the Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act, also known as House Bill 120 (HB 120). HB 120 is a bipartisan bill that will allow those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) to pay in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements. DACA is a policy that President Barack Obama signed on June 12, 2012. This policy protects over 800,000 young people, also known as Dreamers, who entered the United States unlawfully as children. Although the program does not grant them a path towards citizenship, it does allow them to apply for a driver’s license, social security number, and work permit (Boundless).
Initially, the bill proposed to offer in-state tuition to DACA recipients with the intent that students would be paying the same as other in-state students; however, it was changed by the Higher Education Committee. The change was intended to allow universities to charge them the same but no more than 10% of the regular in-state tuition. In addition, universities would be required to prioritize qualified in-state students not applying under the HB 120 law. Lastly, it would allow universities to defer the application of DACA recipients. Because the Georgia General Assembly operates in a two-year biannual session, the bill was last heard by the Higher Education Committee. In 2022, HB 120 will be picked up where it left off during last year’s General Assembly session.
For many Dreamers, Georgia is the only place they call home. During an interview with our intern Tania Ramirez, DACA recipient, and FWD.us’s Georgia State Director Jaime Rangel says that “when it was time for [him] to go to college [at] Dalton State, one class would be $1,500, not including books.” Due to the extensive out-of-state tuition for DACA recipients, many Dreamers decide to postpone receiving a higher education.
Tania, also a DACA recipient, mentions, “as a DACA recipient, it is extremely challenging to pursue my education due to the expenses of attending college.”
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are about 21,000 DACA recipients in Georgia as of 2020. As the number grows, tuition equity becomes more of a necessity for Georgians. Tuition equity for Dreamers would not only benefit DACA recipients, but it would also benefit the economy, as it would allow thousands of students to continue their education and expand the future labor force. Dreamers are eligible to invest in their future with higher education, making Georgia a more robust state. According to FWD.us, reports indicate that in-state tuition for undocumented students could add as much as $10 million to the economy each year.
Currently, “[DACA Recipients] contribute $92.5 million annually to the state and local taxes. [They] also have a strong spending power of $747.5 million in Georgia,” says Jaime during the interview.
Dreamers have continuously contributed to the economy without receiving anything in return. In Georgia, Dreamers cannot qualify for in-state tuition; they cannot ask for federal help such as FAFSA, nor access health care programs. It is time for DACA recipients to receive in-state tuition and invest in their future. Currently, 21 states have already extended in-state tuition to undocumented students who meet specific residency requirements. Unfortunately, Georgia is not one of them. Tuition equity is both a Republican and Democratic issue. This issue is one that lawmakers need to come together to solve. It is an investment for all Georgians, not just Dreamers. In addition, the passing of HB 120 could continue to set a precedent for more U.S. states that currently do not expand in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants or those under the DACA policy. As more U.S. states expand tuition equity, the chance of pushing forward a path towards citizenship grows.
“Nearly 30,000 Undocumented Young Adults in Georgia Could Immediately Benefit from Tuition Equity.” FWD.us, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.fwd.us/news/georgia-tuition-equity/.
Georgia General Assembly, https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58988.
Williams, Ross. “State House Committee Hears Pitch to Give Georgia DACA Students in-State Tuition.” Georgia Public Broadcasting, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/10/22/state-house-committee-hears-pitch-give-georgia-daca-students-in-state-tuition.
“What Is Daca? Everything You Need to Know.” Boundless, https://www.boundless.com/immigration-resources/what-is-daca/.