Undocumented immigrants can help Georgia reach its $10 million goal.
The Complete College Georgia (CCG) initiative reports that the state of Georgia wishes to add 250,000 graduates to the workforce by 2020. Melissa Johnson of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) reported on Sept. 29, by allowing some of the more than 400,000 undocumented immigrants who are covered by the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) currently residing in Georgia into college, the state has an opportunity to reach that target.
The CCG website states that by 2020, over 60 percent of jobs in Georgia will require a post-secondary education. The website also states that currently, only 42 percent of Georgia’s young adults between ages 25 and 34, have attained that level of education.
The age group considered young adults coincides with the largest percentage of undocumented students prohibited from attending public colleges and universities in Georgia. According to the Pew Research Center, 127,000 undocumented immigrants in Georgia are between the ages 25 and 34.
The current policy related to undocumented students attending schools in the University System of Georgia states that, “A person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University System institution.” This rule is expected to affect: University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Medical College of Georgia and Georgia College and State University among others.
There is no federal or state legislation barring undocumented immigrants from attending universities. House Bill HB 59 is a current bill that would ban undocumented students from all USG institutions. This includes all of the 30 public universities in Georgia.
By denying undocumented students the opportunity to attend USG institutions, the state is potentially inhibiting its chances of reaching its CCG goals.The GBPI also cites the 2014 expansion of DACA, which provides a deferment of deportation for immigrants who meet certain criteria, as a reason to open college education to immigrants.
The program provides accepted applicants the possibility to remain and work in the United States on a renewable two year term. This program is available to about 49,000 Georgians, 93 percent of whom are either graduates or are currently enrolled in high school.
Johnson also reports that tuition costs are another interdiction to immigrant students. “The high cost of out-of-state tuition is seen as the main factor pricing higher education out of the reach of most DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants in Georgia,” said Johnson who argues that immigrants paying some tuition is better than none.
The GBPI’s main contention is that the state’s coffers stand to gain from the taxes that would be presumably paid by more educated people. “Allowing immigrants who qualify for deferred action to further their education in Georgia can help them contribute even more to Georgia’s economic vitality,” said Johnson.
Georgia intends to raise $10 million dollars from taxes earned by the highly skilled graduates. This is in addition to the $352 million that undocumented immigrants currently pay in state and local taxes.
According to the Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) website, they are “making satisfactory progress towards meeting its stated goals and metrics as outlined in the initial CCG Report.” One of the focuses of the plan is for GPC to furnish early college options for high school students in DeKalb County. According to GPC, “75 percent of Early College high school graduates…will pursue post-secondary education.”
According to Joshua Sharpe of the Gwinnett Daily Post, DeKalb County is home to more than 42,000 undocumented immigrants. A majority of them are between the ages of 25 and 34. Subsequently, 27 percent of these immigrants would be eligible for coverage under DACA.