Georgia DACA Students Continue Push for In-State Tuition

Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week for Olvera v. University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, a case which will determine whether Georgia students with adjusted status under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) can receive for in-state college tuition in Georgia public colleges and universities.

A group of 39 undocumented students first filed a lawsuit against Georgia’s Board of Regents in August 2013, citing President Obama’s immigration executive actions of 2012. These changes give students who entered the U.S. unlawfully before their 16th birthdays temporary legal residence and exemption from deportation.
The Geogia Board of Regents currently do not allow Georgia DACA students to, citing a 2010 policy requiring students to be “lawfully present” in Georgia to receive in-state tuition rates. DACA students are arguing that given their executive change in legal status, they should be considered to be “lawfully present.”

To date, DACA students are not only barred from in-state tuition rates, but they cannot be admitted to Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Georgia, schools among the state’s most selective public institutions. 20 other states in the U.S. have laws granting DACA students in-state tuition, but Georgia’s neighbors Alabama and South Carolina both currently have laws barring DACA students from in-state rates.

Georgia State Senate is considering a bill on this matter, SB-44, that would amend state policy to allow DACA grantees to receive in-state tuition at Georgia public universities. In an article supporting the bill, Azadeh Shahshahani , the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director of the ACLU Union of Georgia, wrote, “By imposing barriers on these students to attend higher education, Georgia is losing out, too. Without a college degree, it’s much more likely that these students will have no choice but to accept low-paying jobs that neither allow them to fulfill their potential nor help them climb the economic ladder.”

Moreover, Shahshahani argues, because successful undocumented students are unable to pay for local public schooling, they are further incentivized to pursue academic opportunities elsewhere.  “Many will be forced to leave Georgia to take advantage of equal educational opportunities elsewhere — states where such laws don’t exist. As such, they are forced to take their talents and high academic caliber elsewhere, rather than investing it back into the state that invested in them.”