October 13, 2010 — The fight to protect high education benefits for citizens and legal resident immigrants was also in the headlines in Georgia. On October 13 the Georgia State Board of Regents voted to administratively ban illegal immigrants from attending that state’s five major public universities; the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Medical College of Georgia and Georgia College and State University. The ban will begin with the Fall 2011 term. The decision blocks non-citizens who lack documentation of legal presence from enrolling at any campus that has rejected academically qualified applicants for the previous two academic years.
Officials report 501 undocumented students currently attend these taxpayer-funded colleges. However, these numbers were taken from counts of those paying out-of-state tuition, and do not take into account students with fake documents or otherwise already receiving in-state tuition benefits. In a recent case receiving national media attention, a Kennesaw State University student who was stopped by police for a traffic violation was found to be an alien without lawful immigration status who had been granted in-state resident status in violation of Georgia law.
The ban requires campuses to verify the lawful presence of students seeking in-state tuition using one of several methods, including the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) program.
The ban makes Georgia the second state to prohibit illegal aliens from attending four-year institutions. South Carolina currently restricts enrollment at all state public higher education institutions by statute, South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act, and enrollment at two-year institutions in Alabama is also restricted by the Alabama State Board of Education.
Observers speculate that the Board of Regents took administrative action to dodge a threatened comprehensive statutory ban pending before the state legislature. According to Senator Don Balfour (R-Snellville), “A bill will be introduced this session that says no illegals in any public college. I have a hard time believing it won’t pass.” The proposed legislation would reportedly include 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia and 26 institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia.