Georgia Professors Offer Course to Undocumented Students - Higher Education

Higher Education News and Jobs

Georgia Professors Offer Course to Undocumented Students


by Kate Brumback, The Associated Press

ATHENS Ga. – As college students return to campus in Georgia, a new state policy has closed the doors of the five most competitive state schools to undocumented immigrants, but a group of professors has found a way to offer those students a taste of what they’ve been denied.

The five University of Georgia professors have started a program they’re calling Freedom University. They’re offering to teach a rigorous seminar course once a week meant to mirror courses taught at the most competitive schools and aimed at students who have graduated from high school but can’t go to one of those top schools because of the new policy or because of cuts to state scholarship programs.

“This is not a substitute for letting these students into UGA, Georgia State or the other schools,” said Dr. Pam Voekel, a history professor at UGA and one of the program’s initiators. “It is designed for people who, right now, don’t have another option.”

The policy, adopted last fall by the university system’s Board of Regents, bars any state college or university that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the previous two years from admitting illegal immigrants. That includes five Georgia colleges and universities: the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University. Undocumented immigrants may still be admitted to any other state college or university, provided that they pay out-of-state tuition.

The new rule came in response to public concerns that Georgia state colleges and universities were being overrun by undocumented immigrants and that taxpayers were subsidizing their education and as a result legal residents were being displaced. A study conducted by the university system’s Board of Regents last year found that less than 1 percent of the state’s public college students were undocumented immigrants, and that students who pay out-of-state tuition more than pay for their education.

  Conservative Students to Stage ‘Immigrant Game’

“What we’re hoping is that people in decision-making positions will reconsider the policy,” said Dr. Reinaldo Roman, another of the organizing professors. “It goes counter to our aims. We have invested enormous resources in these young people. It makes sense to give them a chance at an education.”

For now the course will simply serve to expose the students to a college environment and challenge them intellectually. It will not likely count for credit should the students be accepted at another school, but the professors said they’re seeking accreditation so credits would be transferable at some point in the future.

The five founding professors all work for UGA, but they stress that the program has no connection to the institution. UGA referred a request for comment to the Board of Regents. Regents spokesman John Millsaps said faculty members are generally free to do whatever they want with their free time as long as it doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities as employees of the university system. But he said he didn’t know enough about the program to comment on this specific case.

Once the professors hatched their plan which was suggested by an undocumented immigrant community member who works with a lot of illegal immigrant teens they reached out to professors at prestigious schools nationwide to sit on a national board of advisers. One of them is Pulitzer Prize winning author and MIT professor Junot Diaz, who calls policies barring undocumented immigrants from state schools cruel and divisive. He said he’s ready to help Freedom University succeed.

  Deadlock Could Force New Trial in Alabama College Race Bias Case

“Whatever they ask of me, I’ll do everything and anything I can,” he wrote in an email. “This clearly is going to be a long fight.”

With professors donating their time and a local Latino community outreach center offering a space for free, the program has few costs. They’ve started an wish list asking people to donate textbooks for students and gas cards for volunteers who will drive students to and from class.

Dressed in a black fleece jacket and tan cargo shorts and carrying a black backpack during a protest rally Tuesday at UGA against the policy, 25-year-old Karl Kings looked like he could be headed to class. However, Kings says he’s an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the U.S. when he was a year old from a country in Asia that he declined to identify.

“Pretty much, I would be a Georgia boy except I wasn’t born here,” he said. “I grew up here my whole life.”

After graduating from high school in suburban Atlanta in 2004, Kings dreamed of going to college but couldn’t afford to pay out-of-state tuition. He’s gotten by doing odd jobs, but has had to turn down some more stable or challenging job offers because they required proof of eligibility to work in the U.S. He was filling out an application for Freedom University at the end of the rally this week.

The program is currently taking applications, with the first class, American Civilization I, set to start Sept. 8. The five professors will rotate teaching the seminar course on their own time at an off-campus location. All qualified applicants will likely be accepted unless there are so many applications that space constraints force them to limit admissions, said Lorgia Garcia Pena, another of the founding professors.

  Oral Roberts' Son Accused of Misspending

Leeidy Solis, 16, was brought to the United States illegally by her parents from Mexico when she was 2. A high school senior in Athens, she wants to become a veterinarian. She finds it hard to listen to her friends discuss where they’re applying to college because she’s not sure she will be able to go. She’s looking into where she might get a grant or scholarship to pay for her education.

Her parents are thinking of packing up and heading back to Mexico. They are encouraging her to apply to college there and go with them. But she doesn’t remember Mexico and all her friends and cultural experiences are here, so she wants to stay. She said she’s definitely keeping Freedom University in mind.

“Even if they don’t count it as a credit, at least we as students can experience what it’s like to take a real college class,” Solis said.

Innovative Strategies for HBCUs Proposed at CBC Conference WASHINGTON — A range of solutions and strategies — from the adoption of new business models to one-on-one mentoring from African Americans who’ve attained C-Suite positions — emerged Thursday at the inaugural HBCU “braintrust” of the Congressional Bl...
Former Obama Officials Launch Legal Group to Challenge DeVos WASHINGTON — A group of Obama administration officials is starting a legal aid organization to challenge the Trump administration’s policies on student lending and civil rights. The National Student Legal Defense Network says it will join with sta...
Organizations Call for DeVos to Halt Student Loan Policy Changes The regulatory changes being pursued by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the student loan arena could “spell disaster for students of color who are too often exploited in consumer lending,” a group of 39 organizations said Tuesday in a lett...
Sweet Briar Preparing for Fresh Start Sweet Briar College, an all-women’s school located in the Virginia foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is poised to begin yet another chapter of its existence for the 2018-’19 academic year. The school, which nearly closed in 2015, plans to restru...
Semantic Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *