TheRedandBlack: Undocumented students fight for in-state tuition

Originally posted on The Red and Black on April 11, 2014

By Brittini Ray

Immigration is resurfacing as a topic of debate among University of Georgia students, as 39 undocumented students sue the state of Georgia for the right to receive in-state college tuition.

“They have a right to sue,” said Macey Kessler, a junior digital broadcasting major from Suwanee. “If they’re qualifying under federal law as U.S. citizens and meeting requirements, then they should get the same in-state tuition.”

Rigoberto Rivera, 24, and 38 other immigrants filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that Georgia failed to follow its own rules by denying them in-state tuition. Their argument revolves around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program was enacted by the Obama administration to grant several undocumented residents temporary immunity from deportation and to classify them as legal U.S. citizens. Under the program, Rivera receives temporary legal rights that allow him to work in Georgia and obtain a state driver’s license.

“It’s like the government of Georgia is saying you’re good enough to get a job, but not good enough to be getting an education,” Rivera said in a GPB News article.

Despite his temporary status, Rivera feels limited in educational prospects. Rivera and other students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can attend state schools but will have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is significantly more expensive than in-state tuition. The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents requires students to be legal U.S. citizens in order to receive in-state tuition and refuses to grant Rivera in-state tuition.

Graham Hines, a junior Chinese and film major from Augusta, said he thinks the policy makes the Board of Regents look stingy.

The University System of Georgia also prohibits students in the program from attending any institution that has failed to enroll all of its academically-qualified applicants in the past two years, which includes Georgia as well as the Georgia Institute of Technology.

UGA charges out-of-state students $13,119 per semester, which is more than triple the tuition rate of in-state students. In-state students pay $4,014 per semester for tuition.

“If they meet all the legal qualifications and they are residents of Georgia, then they should be given the same treatment,” said Robert Goslee, a senior international affairs major from Canton.

Rivera graduated from Roswell High School and lives with his parents in Roswell. Some UGA students believe that Rivera’s long residency in Georgia earns him the right to receive in-state tuition.

“I don’t really know why it’s a problem all of a sudden,” said Danimarie Roselle, a junior magazine major from West Caldwell, N.J. “He’s been here most of his life and he graduated from high school in Georgia. If he graduated from high school in Georgia, he lives here. He should be able to claim in-state tuition.”

The Board or Regents has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.

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