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State House Committee Hears Case to Give Georgia DACA Students State Tuition Fees

Georgian lawmakers are expected to meet under the Gold Dome in January for the 2022 General Assembly, which means a second chance for bills that have not crossed the finish line this year.

Immigration rights activists hope that a law Project it would allow so-called Georgia dreamers – beneficiaries of the Obama-era deferred action for child arrivals – to pay tuition fees more in line with other Georgian students.

“This is obviously something that we have to look at as a state,” said the bill’s author, Dalton Republican Representative Kasey Carpenter. “An educated workforce will be paramount as we move into the 21st century. We have these children that we have already invested in. It is obvious, but the obvious does not always equal the law.

Under DACA, people brought to the United States as children can live and work in the country without being deported, provided they maintain a clean criminal record. In 2020, there were just under 21,000 DACA recipients in Georgia, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A Texas federal judge banned the government from accepting further DACA requests in July, setting up an ongoing battle with the White House.

DACA recipients are entitled to the same kindergarten to grade 12 public education as US-born Georgians, but when it comes time to apply to college, they have to pay tuition fees outside of the US. state, which can be up to three times what their classmates pay.

A new report from FWD.us, a pro-immigration lobby group, found that nearly 30,000 Georgians between the ages of 18 and 29 would immediately benefit from an extension of tuition fees in the state to all undocumented students , and 1,500 additional Kindergarten to Grade 12 students. who are undocumented would benefit every year for the next decade when they graduate from high school.

Undocumented students who graduate from a technical college would pay back the state’s investment within 10 years, and those earning a bachelor’s degree would pay it back within 16 years, through better-paying jobs, higher tax contributions, and power. higher earning, according to the report, and state tuition fees for undocumented students could add up to $ 10 million each year to the economy.

Carpenter’s bill would be narrower and would only apply to DACA recipients. And although Carpenter initially planned for students to pay the same price as everyone else, this was changed by the House Higher Education Committee in the last session to allow universities to charge them between 100% and 110% of the tuition fee. state regulars.

Universities would also be required to give priority to qualified state students who did not apply under this law, and schools could defer enrollment of DACA students until all applications from other students are accepted, deferred or rejected.

The revised bill also proposes to exempt universities that have failed to admit all qualified applicants in the past two academic years, which would exclude the most competitive colleges in the state, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Still, FWD.us estimates that the bill would immediately benefit 15,000 students.

Jaime Rangel, a Dalton resident who works for FWD.us, urged the House Study Committee on Innovative Ways to Maximize Global Talent to review the plan at the committee meeting on Thursday.

“Twenty-one states have already extended state tuition fees across the country, Texas and Florida laws are actually more open than the legislation proposed by Representative Carpenter,” he said. declared. “It is both a Republican and a Democratic problem, a problem lawmakers have come together to solve.”

Carpenter is hopeful that Georgian lawmakers meet this winter to push his bill forward, although he acknowledges that this is not a sure thing, especially in a pivotal election year, when fellow Republicans may feel more inclined to play for the party base with legislation focused on conservative cultural issues.

“In an election year, politics is always a bit wobbly, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting year.

But Carpenter said he felt pretty good about the odds of the bill. Companies are looking to hire skilled workers, he said, and enrollment is down at several colleges in Georgia. While Georgia’s university system increased its enrollment by 2.4% overall between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the nine state colleges in the system saw their enrollment drop an average of 7% in the past. During that time, two facts that might make it easier to sell the bill to budget-conscious conservatives, Carpenter said.

“If you spend the money today to educate people, the state gets its money back in the form of higher taxes later,” he said. “This is Republican politics bread and butter, invest a little for a better return on the road.”

“I’m still an optimist, man,” he added. “I feel like until day 40 I had a chance. So I feel pretty good. It’s good policy. And I think the more we educate people about it, let’s talk about it. things we can control as a state, let the federal government control what it does not control. We don’t have to solve federal problems, but what we can do is make the most of it. the hand provided to us as a state, and that’s what this law is trying to do. “


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