A coalition of organizations mounted a protest here to urge the Georgia Board of Regents to scrap a policy that bars undocumented students from the state’s five most-competitive publicly funded universities.
Members of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups went to Tuesday’s meeting of the regents to present petitions opposing the regulation.
The organizations also held a press conference outside the board’s Atlanta offices.
“There is no just cause to implement the prohibition against undocumented students,” Allie McCullen, spokesperson with Georgia Students for Public Higher Education, told Efe.
Enacted last year, Policy 4.1.6. bars undocumented students from admission to any publicly funded school that was unable to find room for all academically qualified applicants over the preceding two years.
In practice, the measure applies to the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University.
Figures provided by the Board of Regents show the five universities had a total of 29 undocumented students enrolled in 2010.
The new policy has forced those institutions to begin verifying applicants’ immigration status, a practice McCullen said could spread to Georgia’s 30 other state-funded universities.
“We have great concerns about how this program is being implemented and we have noted that there is a lot of disinformation at other universities regarding the way in which the prohibition should be implemented,” the activist said.
The “disinformation,” according to McCullen, has prompted universities that are not subject to Policy 4.1.6. to start scrutinizing applicants’ immigration status.
“The logic of the authorities is that the undocumented students were taking spots in the state universities away from the U.S. students, but that’s not the case, as the undocumented represented less than 1 percent of the student population when the measure was approved,” she said.
A Board of Regents investigation released last month found that only 501 of the roughly 310,000 students in the University System of Georgia are undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented students attending state-funded schools in Georgia are excluded from government financial aid programs and must pay tuition at the higher out-of-state rate.
Responding to Policy 4.1.6., some professors at the University of Georgia launched an initiative they call “Freedom University,” which is now providing instruction to around 30 undocumented students.