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Update Posted February 07, 2012

USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby Advocates Board Policy at House Higher Education Committee Meeting

On Tuesday, January 31, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents and the University System, alongside Technical College System Commissioner Ron Jackson, on House Bill 59. The House Higher Education Committee, chaired by Representative Carl Rogers, heard testimony from members of the community and organizations regarding the carryover legislation from 2011.

Sponsored by Representative Tom Rice, HB 59 would ban undocumented students from attending any public institution of higher education in Georgia. The bill amends current law “to clarify that postsecondary education is a state and local public benefit; to reserve postsecondary education benefits to citizens and lawfully present and eligible aliens; to require verification of the eligibility for such applicants for such benefits through the federal SAVE program.”

“We all know of the vigorous debate about undocumented immigrants receiving public benefits. In the university system, the debate centers on whether undocumented students should be admitted and if so, how much should they pay. Today I am here to ask you to allow the Regents’ current policy to continue to achieve what are our shared goals,” said Chancellor Huckaby.

“I believe our current policy addresses the concerns some of you have that the System should ensure that all undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition, that no Georgians should be denied a seat in college if they were academically qualified because of an undocumented student, and that educating undocumented students would not cost Georgia taxpayers,” he added.

The regents approved in October 2010 a policy on the admission of students, including undocumented students, which went into affect in fall 2011. The policy has four points:

• The addition of language on all applications that outlines the legal penalties for “false swearing,” or knowingly providing incorrect information on the forms.

• The addition of language on all applications that, for the first time, requires applicants to state whether they are seeking in-state tuition. This helps institutions to make a decision on whether or not additional residency verification is necessary.

• A requirement that USG institutions verify the lawful presence in the United States of any applicant seeking in-state tuition and not applying for federal financial aid, which has its own stringent verification processes. Approximately 60 percent of our students do apply for federal aid. If verification cannot be made, these students are charged out-of-state tuition.

• A policy that any person not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any USG institution which, for the two most recent academic years, did not admit all academically qualified applicants.

Fall 2011 University System enrollment was 318,000 students. Of those students, less than one-tenth of one percent are undocumented according to University System reports. Those undocumented students pay out-of-state tuition, which at slightly more than three times the in-state tuition rate, which more than covers the cost of their education, said Huckaby.

Huckaby went on to note a related issue, which he respectfully addressed – graduating more students is a key goal of the University System in contributing to Georgia’s economic development. He believes students, who through no fault of their own are undocumented, should be educated to the highest levels.

Georgia’s policy regarding undocumented students and higher education follows most states that requires those students to pay out-of-state tuition and follows a “common sense approach to a complex issue” Huckaby noted.

In closing, Huckaby testified, “long-term, we want to protect Georgians, promote the state as a place to do business, and encourage all individuals to pursue education, but we do not wish to offer anyone an undue benefit. I believe that the current board policy achieves all of these goals and would ask you to consider giving us the opportunity to address this through board policy. We will continue to work closely with you to make sure that our policy achieves our common aims.”

The committee also heard testimony from a number of people who attended the meeting. No action was taken on the proposed bill and it is anticipated that another hearing will be held later in the session.

Posted by Sonja Roberts
Published in: Immigration, House Bill

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