Georgia’s Board of Regents Versus Students: Applying to College as an Undocumented Student
With college decisions coming in, getting into the right college or university daunting task, especially for those that allow undocumented students to attend the college of their choosing. I realized that money doesn't start falling from the sky if you want to attend an expensive out-of-state or private school, it can be a roadblock for many. So I decided to venture out. “As a kid, I was taught that I ought to obtain a college education. My parents required this of my siblings and I. However, they were unable to pay for it. We were led to believe that we would achieve better lives for ourselves than our parents had.” said senior Stephanie Cara. Unlike U.S born citizens undocumented, can’t get federal financial aid, while DACA students cannot get federal student aid even with a social security. “It’s upsetting because most families move to America for their child to receive a healthy education.” Graphic by: Brian Cogdell
In the 2017-2018 state legislative session, tracked pieces of legislation regarding in-state tuition for undocumented students in 12 states. Currently, 10 pieces of legislation are still pending, while 11 pieces of failed to pass Georgia, Arizona, and Indiana have passed legislation that specifically prohibits undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition rates. Leaving many students from Georgia either to not attend college or save and grind for scholarships. Georgia goes one step further with barring undocumented students from attending the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and GCSU. In all other states, state legislation leaves admission and in-state vs. out-of-state
charges are left to the discretion of colleges and universities. In Georgia, the average U.S student going to Georgia State University would end up with an annual tuition of $26,014. But those who are undocumented, that have resided in Georgia for most of their life still have to pay in full amount $40,873 leading, to thousands of students paying out of state tuition.
Many undocumented and DACA students have to take matters in their own hands in order to get a higher education. An undocumented student who preferred to remain anonymous joined a program known as ‘Freedom University’ in which they provide free college-level classes to undocumented students. Freedom University seeks to remedy the exclusion by fulfilling undocumented students’ right to education. “Not only do they provide us, with academic benefits, but they teach us to support our undocumented peers, and never giving up on our dreams of attending college. They also encourage us to apply our education and deepened political consciousness in our daily lives in ways that advance the broader immigrant rights movement and contribute to the public good.” said anonymously. “The only downfall is that you can not earn a degree currently. They hope to expand on providing degrees for students in the future.”
Higher Education:Freedom University is an academic program allowing undocumented, and DACA students to reach the freedom they deserve.
Photo courtesy of: Freedom University
The faculty’s jobs vary vastly due to their expansive resume and majors, ranging from Spanish Literature, Biology, Human Rights and Movement Leadership, Creative Writing, and even Psychology. Many of them are professors, from universities all over the country. Some were undocumented students themselves. One of the current mentors’ name is Navina Vemuri originally from Germany, born to a German mother and an Indian father. She found her way to Freedom University through her involvement with a youth organizing program which led her to become interested in domestic issues instead. They even urge Georgia to change its higher education policies toward undocumented students. Recently the program's staff and faculty took action, by peacefully protesting at a Georgia’s Education Board of Regents. Whether it was an unfortunate turn of events or a success, nine protesters were arrested during the event. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia was created as part of a reorganization of Georgia’s state government. The Board oversees the public colleges and universities that comprise the University System of Georgia and has oversight of the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library Service.
Many of the programs students and their allies have tried to sue Georgia's Board of Regents, the lobby at the state capitol and stage acts of civil disobedience without success. The protest at the state’s Board of Regents meeting included undocumented students from Freedom University and other Georgia institutions including Georgia State and Emory universities, according to an announcement about the protest on the group’s Facebook page.
While there are those who are trying to change restrictive laws, some are just looking for colleges that will accept them regardless of their background. “I wanted to go to college but, the tuition is just so expensive.” Said Senior Lena Alan. Lena currently maintains a 3.6 GPA and is actively involved with school clubs such as HoPe, FBLA, and etc. Lakeside’s very own organization HoPe maintains the mission of wanting to increase the graduation rate among Hispanic high school students through leadership, education, and community service. “My grades are good, but they aren’t scholarship good. Every scholarship requirements expect you to have this stellar background, and have a 4.0, managing AP/Gifted classes My alternative options were going to either community college or the military.” Even though she’s not trying to get in-state tuition, private scholarships have roadblocks.