FREEDOM UNIVERSITY TO THE RESCUE
With the new school term set to begin, undocumented students, especially those in Georgia state are in a quandary with respect to the pursuit of higher education. These undocumented immigrants have been barred from entering Georgia’s five most competitive schools. While they can still be admitted at other public colleges and universities, they will be charged higher fees, especially, for out-of-state residents.
The new policy was adopted last fall by the university system’s Board of Regents following concerns that undocumented immigrants were overrunning Georgia state colleges and universities. Undocumented students fear that other states may follow the policy which could halt the academic aspiration of many who dream of pursuing professional careers.
These moves have sent a harsh message to undocumented immigrants indicating without reservation that they are indeed “outsiders” and “aliens.” It also puts a damper on the notion that working hard in school can help to fulfill the American Dream.
With the new term barely a week away students and immigration advocates have embarked on a series of protests regarding Georgia’s new policy. The five schools undocumented students are barred from are: University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College & State University.
Following the introduction of the new policy five University of Georgia professors have created a program called Freedom University, to offer courses to undocumented students. The program consists of rigorous seminar courses that will be held once a week. The courses will be the same as those taught at top state institutions that the students are not allowed to attend or are unable to attend because of cuts in scholarship funds. The professors are offering this program on a voluntary basis and the classes will be held at a local community Latino center. They have also set up an Amazon.com wish list seeking donations of textbooks for students and gas cards so volunteers could help drive the students to and from classes.
The professors are currently seeking accreditation for the Freedom University so the courses taught could receive credits for a student wishing to attend another institution. The program is designed to expose students to a college environment and to challenge them intellectually. UGA history professor Pam Voekel, emphasizes that the program is not a “substitute for letting these students into UGA, Georgia State or the other schools,” but it’s meant “for people who, right now, don’t have another option.”
During a protest rally at UGA on Tuesday, 25-year-old Karl Kings, an illegal immigrant who was brought to the U.S. from Asia when he was a year old, said he does odd jobs because proof of eligibility was needed for more prominent jobs. He said he was filling out an application for Freedom University since he could not afford the fees for the other colleges.
Leeidy Solis,16, from Mexico, was two years old when she was brought to the U.S. illegally by her parents. She is now a high school senior in Athens and wants to become a veterinarian. She finds it hard to listen to her friends discuss where they’re applying to college because she’s not sure she will be able to become a college graduate. She hopes to one day get a grant or scholarship to pay for her education.
Freedom University hopes to take all qualified applicants in, unless space constraints force them to limit the number of students to be admitted.
Among the professors who will be teaching at Freedom University is Pulitzer Prize winning author and MIT professor Junot Diaz. He said “policies barring illegal immigrants from state schools are cruel and divisive.” In an email he wrote: “Whatever they ask of me. I’ll do everything and anything I can. This clearly is going to be a long fight.”