School for undocumented students in Georgia
University of Georgia Professors are running a school for undocumented students who have been blocked off from the state’s top universities. (Photo by Freedom University)
A group of four University of Georgia professors in Athens set up their own school for students who are not allowed to enroll at Georgia’s top public schools because of their immigration status.
Freedom University, as the school is called, opened in October in response to a decision by the state university system’s board of regents to block undocumented students from enrolling in those schools. It ran mostly unnoticed until CNN’s Thelma Gutierrez reported on it earlier this week.
The founders reached out to undocumented students using flyers and through counselors at local high schools. Thirty-three are currently enrolled and there is a growing waiting list, according to one of the school’s founders, Lorgia Garcia Peña. Students can apply anonymously through the school’s website.
“As an educator, and I think I speak for the four of us, we believe that education should be available to anyone, regardless of economic background, race, sexual orientation, or immigration status,” Garcia Peña told Univision News.
Garcia Peña says one of the greatest frustrations of the group was that the board of regents justified the policy, denominated policy 4.1.6, by stating that all available spots at those schools should be reserved for legal residents—something that until then had been a non-issue.
In fact, only 27 of the students enrolled at those schools were undocumented, according to CNN. At the University of Georgia, Garcia Peña says there were only four before the policy went into effect. Those students had to pay out-of-state tuition, which is three times the in-state rate.
On Thursday, administrators and professors who form part of the president’s council at the University of Georgia met to discuss a resolution to ask the board of regents to the rescind the ban. An overwhelming majority voted to adopt the resolution, making the university’s stance against the policy official.
Only one other state, South Carolina, currently has a similar ban in place.
Garcia Peña says she is not aware of any of the other schools taking any action against the policy, but that opposition by the University of Georgia, which is the largest of the five, will send a strong message to the board of regents.
“As long as students want to be part of higher education, we will do everything we can to teach them,” Garcia Peña said. “We don’t believe in segregating students.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 27 of the 310,000 students enrolled in the University System of Georgia were undocumented. In fact, 27 was the number of students enrolled at the five schools that banned undocumented immigrants. The number total number of undocumented students in the state’s university system was 501.