Every parent dreams of the day they get to watch their child graduate from college; getting teary-eyed at the sound of pomp and circumstance and cheering as their pride and joy walks across the stage. The graduate also dreams of the time when their sleepless nights of studying will finally pay off. Starting a career and creating a life with dignity is all many people dream of, so why should that be any different for undocumented students?
When parents make the difficult decision to leave everything they know and venture to the U.S., undocumented, they do it in the hopes of providing a better life for their families. They hope for the American Dream.
So imagine being an undocumented high school senior who arrived as a small child and enrolled in a Georgia public school in kindergarten. In high school, friends are starting to receive acceptance letters and are planning for a new chapter in their lives. But you, as the undocumented student, are stuck. You are banned from attending certain colleges and universities in Georgia, and you do not qualify for financial aid, HOPE or in-state tuition, despite having lived in the state for the majority of your life.
- The individual must have entered the U.S. before 16 years of age.
- The individual CANNOT have been convicted of a felony OR three other misdemeanors.
- The individual graduated from high school.
- Individuals who have served in the military.
For some of these DREAMers, going to college is not an impossible feat. Presently, there are 14 states that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and four of those states allow them take advantage of financial aid. Georgia along with Arizona, Colorado and Indiana have barred undocumented students from paying in-state tuition and, to make matters worse, Georgia has also barred undocumented students from attending the top five public colleges and universities in the state.
The state of Georgia needs to realize the damage these policies are doing to the lives of undocumented students and the future of our state. Having these regulations forces students to leave Georgia and seek higher education elsewhere. We have future doctors, scientists and leaders either leaving the state, not continuing their education or working three or more jobs to pay for out-of-state tuition. It is not fair that these students, who have lived a majority of their lives in this state, are treated like outsiders. Georgia is their home and they deserve a quality education without having to leave the state.