According to some government estimates, there are as many as ten million people residing in the United States without legal documentation, and, though the Southeastern quadrant has been spared the waves of unlicensed immigration that have stretched the public services budget of a state like California to the breaking point, it’s nonetheless become a substantial problem continually raising political debate. To hinder the increasingly widespread concerns that the halls of academia have themselves become overrun by illegal immigrants, the Georgia House of Representatives recently introduced a piece of legislation that would prohibit enrollment within state colleges and universities. The proposed ban would apply to students attending traditional campus-centric academic centers as well as those getting a degree online, and it has aroused no small amount of controversy.
Elected officials supporting the bill argue with some justification that, by taking advantage of the public subsidies awarded to institutions of higher education, the immigrants have been effectively defrauding the taxpayers of Georgia. Programs that issue an online Associate’s degree or online Bachelor’s degree are particularly prone to being misled since their admissions policies are relatively far more open and tend to approve the matriculation of any high school graduate without accompanying criteria. Critics of the legislation, while acknowledging the unfortunate drain on social services, counter that scholastic development will be the surest way for the immigrants to better their standard of living and eventually qualify for citizenship (as well as elevating their eventual tax brackets). Commentators further note that a troubling racial component has aroused deeply divisive partisan bickering surrounding the topic, and, given the state’s history of impeding the educational progress of ethnic groups, allegations of prejudice should be avoided at all cost.
“The legislature doesn’t seem to recognize just how many people come to this country hoping to improve their family’s circumstances,” said Sandra Wong, an online Bachelor’s degree student at a state institution who proudly admits that some of her friends would be affected by the new ban, “and not all of them understand at the time just why they can’t take part in the American dream. If some undocumented immigrants are signing up for classes at the community college or getting a degree online, that shouldn’t mean they’re automatically taking an opportunity away from someone else. There’s enough higher education to go around, isn’t there? They only want to stay and work in the United States and add something to our economy!”
Although it’s extremely unlikely that an undocumented student would receive a need based scholarship, thanks the checks built into the system of funding higher education, many nevertheless do manage to qualify for the considerably lower tuition charges awarded state residents. To an extent, then, the political upheaval of this issue has been as much fueled by the expense of academia as any resistance to the conceptual unfairness of publicly sponsoring the advanced learning of undocumented immigrants, and that’s a separate question entirely. Rising tuition prices during uncertain financial times have forced alterations to the educational plans of so many families in Georgia and the rest of the United States over the past decade, and, perhaps, a concerted method of bringing down the expenses of scholastic achievement — including the very same online Associate’s degree and online Bachelor’s degree that have cause such outrage when undertaken by illegal residents — could quell this dispute once and for all.