A harsh new anti-immigrant policy in Georgia has closed the doors of some of the state’s best universities to undocumented students. But a group of five professors have devised a plan to give some of these students at least a taste of the education they’ve been denied by GOP lawmakers:
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 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 professors said they’re seeking accreditation so credits could be transferable in the future if their students are accepted at other state universities. The program has minimal costs, with professors donating their time and a local Latino community outreach center offering a free space.
Last fall, the university system’s Board of Regents barred any state college or university that has rejected academically qualified applicants in the past two years from admitting illegal immigrants. That includes five of Georgia’s top colleges and universities. Undocumented students can still apply to other public schools for higher education, but only if they pay significantly higher out-of-state tuition.
The policy was implemented in response to concerns that state colleges “were being overrun by illegal immigrants, that taxpayers were subsidizing their education and legal residents were being displaced.” That’s despite the fact that the Board of Regents own study concluded that less than 1 percent of the state’s public college students were illegal immigrants and that undocumented students who pay out-of-state tuition more than pay for their education.
Since then, students and immigration advocates have participated in a string of major protests, including one just days ago at the University of Georgia.