External Affairs Division

Regents Adopt New Policies on Undocumented Students

Atlanta — October 13, 2010

A final report presented today to the Board of Regents finds that only 501 undocumented students – all paying out-of-state tuition – are among the 310,000 students enrolled in University System of Georgia (USG) institutions this fall. While the numbers are small, beginning in fall 2011, all applicants will undergo new steps designed to strengthen the ability of USG institutions to properly classify students for tuition purposes.

These steps are outlined in four recommendations by the Residency Verification Committee approved today by the Board of Regents. They will go into effect for the fall 2011 semester. These include:

  • The addition of language on all applications that outlines the legal penalties for “false swearing,” or knowingly providing incorrect information on the forms. USG officials indicate this will better educate individuals about the process of applying to college.

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

  • A policy requirement that USG institutions verify the lawful presence in the United States of any applicant that is admitted. Students who note they are seeking in-state tuition will, if not applying for federal financial aid (which has its own stringent verification processes), be subject to additional verification by the institution.

  • 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.

“We are an educational agency in the business of preparing individuals for careers requiring knowledge and skills; we are not in the immigration business, nor are we equipped to serve as the immigration authorities,” said Regent James Jolly, who chaired the Residency Verification Committee. “However, these new policies do strengthen our ability to ensure proper tuition classification for all students – a process and a commitment the System has undertaken and met since being formed in 1931.”

Jolly noted that the committee, formed by former Board Chair Robert Hatcher in June, sought to address three concerns: that the University System was being swamped by thousands of undocumented students, that Georgia taxpayers were subsidizing the education of these students through in-state tuition, and that undocumented students were taking seats in college from academically qualified Georgians.

“The review of all students over the summer by our institutions answers the first two concerns,” Jolly said in his report of the committee’s work to the regents. He said that the review found only 501 undocumented students enrolled in the system, with all paying out-of-state tuition, which is set at the full cost of instruction. “Every student paying out-of-state tuition actually covers more than the cost of instruction,” Jolly said.

“The fact that we have so few undocumented students and that at present, all are properly classified for tuition purposes, shows that our admissions departments are doing their job, and doing it quite well,” Jolly said. He said the review shows the USG’s admissions processes are quite strong, even prior to the implementation of the new recommendations approved by the board.

The third concern, that undocumented students deny seats to qualified Georgians, is addressed by the policy denying admission to undocumented students at institutions that have to turn away academically qualified, legal residents. “Only five institutions fall into this category, with 27 undocumented students enrolled this fall,” said Jolly. The five are Georgia College & State University, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia.

The committee’s work follows that of an audit on residency and tuition conducted by the Georgia State Audit Department two years ago. That audit found that the vast majority of students – both domestic and foreign – were properly classified for tuition purposes. However, USG institutions adopted more stringent guidelines for admissions procedures following that audit, and these new recommendations add yet another layer of verification.

The issue of undocumented students attending USG institutions jumped into the headlines this summer as part of the ongoing national and state discussion on illegal immigrants, sparked in Georgia by the case of an undocumented student at Kennesaw State University. Consequently the regents and Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. ordered an internal review process of USG admissions of both current and new students.

The Residency Verification Committee was formed and charged to oversee the review of student tuition classification and to develop and propose any needed recommendations to the full board. In addition to Jolly, other members of the committee were regents Larry R. Ellis, Felton Jenkins, William “Dink” NeSmith Jr., and Larry Walker; four USG presidents, including Dr. Mark Becker (Georgia State University), Dr. Virginia Carson (South Georgia College), Dr. Martha Nesbitt (Gainesville State College), and Dr. Lisa Rossbacher (Southern Polytechnic State University) and University System Office staff members John Fuchko, chief audit officer, Burns Newsome, vice chancellor, Legal Affairs and secretary to the board, Amanda Seals, executive director for Government Affairs and Mendi Spencer, chief of staff for Academic Affairs.

The University System follows current federal and state laws, which allows for undocumented individuals to be enrolled, if academically qualified. Such students cannot receive any federal or state benefits. In-state tuition, which is subsidized by the state, is such a benefit, and thus undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition, which is set at least at the full cost of instruction.

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