December 16, 2006
ATLANTA – High-performing students who grew up in Georgia but are undocumented immigrants soon won't qualify for discounted tuition at state colleges.
The change is necessary to comply with the state's new aggressive immigration laws that went into effect in July, said Burns Newsome, attorney for the Georgia Board of Regents. It means students who have high grades but are in the country illegally will have to pay the much higher out-of-state tuition rates rather than being allowed to pay in-state tuition.
Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, architect of the tough immigration laws, said the state should not subsidize the education of student who won't be able to work legally after graduation. The policy shift also wards off any potential lawsuits that have plagued states like California and New York, he said.
“Georgia doesn't need to be put through that,” he said.
But others say the change will only hurt communities where high school drop out rates are high and college attendance rates are paltry at best.
“It's unconscionable to punish children for the sins of their parents,” said State Sen. Sam Zamarripa, D-Atlanta, who fought against the immigration laws. “This initiative is essentially going after kids that are more Georgian than anybody who has moved here in the past five years. They like boiled peanuts. They like southern rock. They like the Braves.”
It is unclear how many students will be affected because the Regents don't track the number of illegal immigrants at state colleges.
This year, in-state students pay $1,819 per semester to attend the Georgia State University, compared to the $7,276 per semster that out-of-state students pay. Tuition varies by institution.
Ten states offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, according to the National Council of La Raza. Many of those states have faced lawsuits from U.S. citizens paying out-of-state tuition rates.