Some immigrant college students are fighting with Georgia’s Board of Regents for the right to pay in-state tuition. They argued their case Thursday in front of the state Court of Appeals.
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Students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are protected by an executive action from the Obama administration. Under that program, students have “lawful presence” in the United States.
“The attorney general and Homeland Security know you’re here and they give you permission to be here. That’s exactly what all the DACA kids have is lawful presence,” says Charles Kuck, a lawyer for those students.
Kuck says the Georgia Board of Regents’ policy from 2010 states that people who do not have lawful presence are not eligible for in-state tuition. He argues that if you extend that logic, the policy states that people who have lawful presence are eligible for in-state tuition.
But the Georgia Board of Regents says there’s a difference between “lawful presence” and “lawful status,” and students actually need “lawful status” to be eligible for in-state tuition.
Kuck says the language of the policy is vague.
“They can clearly make a policy that says, ‘You must have lawful status to get in-state tuition,’ but they chose not to do it in 2010, and they have not corrected it in the past seven years,” Kuck says.
Ivan Morales, a DACA student studying sports management at Georgia State University, says he can’t afford to go to college full time because out-of-state tuition is three to four times more expensive.
“If we do get a verdict in our favor, I think it’s going to change the concept for DACA students that, yes, college is attainable and, yes, I can achieve a higher education,” Morales says.
Kuck says he expects to hear a ruling on this case within the next five months, but he expects it to get appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, no matter the decision.