A state bill that would give undocumented students a bit of a break on public college tuition has cleared a key legislative panel. The House Higher Education Committee approved HB 120 this week.
Currently, undocumented students can attend some of Georgia’s public colleges and universities, but they have to pay out-of-state tuition rates. Depending on the school, that could be about 3-4 times what in-state rates are.
HB 120 wouldn’t necessarily let undocumented students pay in-state rates. Instead, schools can set an “opportunity tuition rate,” which could be between 100% and 110% of in-state tuition costs.
“I do think it’s important to give the university system flexibility,” said Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), the bill’s lead sponsor. “But I also want to make sure that we’re making a concerted effort to show folks that we want them to have opportunities to stay in Georgia and pay taxes in Georgia.”
Under the bill, undocumented students still wouldn’t be able to attend some of the state’s research universities, like Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. A Board of Regents rule bans undocumented students from schools that have had to turn down qualified applicants.
Still, Carpenter said the legislation would be a boon to his district.
“This is a huge workforce development issue especially in Whitfield County,” he said. “We have upwards of 6,000 DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] individuals. They also say Whitfield County has the lowest college rates in the nation. This would be an immediate impact, especially on my community.”
Although the bill passed out of committee with bipartisan support, it also had some opponents.
“This is really a cultural issue,” said Katie Stamper, who addressed the House Higher Education Committee. “We know that we now have a president who’s going to loosen immigration and has already dramatically. We’re putting another magnet in to attract additional illegal alien foreign nationals to come here.”
The House Rules Committee will decide whether to schedule the legislation for a full House vote. It would need to pass the chamber by Monday to have a chance of making it to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.
Currently, 19 states including Florida, Texas, and California, let undocumented college students pay in-state tuition rates.