Open College Entry to Undocumented Students to Bolster Georgia’s Workforce

Many Georgia students started college for the first time this fall. That’s good news for Georgia as the state says it needs 250,000 additional college graduates to meet its workforce needs by 2020, according to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia Initiative. The bad news is that the state is excluding an estimated 5,000 potential graduates from the pool of students who can fill that gap.

A new Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Report shows the state is missing out on thousands of potential college graduates because it creates obstacles that block academically-qualified undocumented students. These obstacles hurt the state’s competitiveness as well its economy in critical ways:

  • Georgia fails to create the same diverse, attractive workforces as Texas, Florida, Virginia and 24 other states foster with more inclusive tuition policies.
  • The barriers undermine Georgia’s goal to create 250,000 additional college graduates by 2020 to meet workforce needs outlined in Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia Initiative.
  • Georgia fails to capitalize on the major investment in its K-12 school system by erecting barriers for undocumented students to continue their education in the state.

Georgia’s state and local governments also miss out on potential tax revenue when education prospects of undocumented immigrants are limited. The state can add an estimated $10 million per year to state and local treasuries through higher incomes from better skilled workers if it allows Georgians to pay in-state tuition at any public college or university if they are eligible to work without threat of deportation.

Reasonable people will agree that our national immigration policy needs work to better tailor it to 21st century realities. Those fixes do not seem to be imminent. Georgia can take steps now to help undocumented students caught in the middle of the debate become college-educated contributors to Georgia’s workforce.  It’s in all of our interests to make that happen.

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