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University of Georgia professors create Freedom University to give undocumented students a chance at college

LatinaLista — Undocumented college students in Georgia were facing a pretty dismal start to the school year this year. A ruling in 2010 by the Georgia State Board of Regents barring any state college or university from accepting undocumented immigrants on their campuses, if those schools had rejected academically qualified students in the previous two years, severely limited the options of bright, college-eager undocumented students.

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To make matters worse, at the schools where undocumented students could enroll, they would have to pay out-of-state tuition, even if they had grown up attending Georgia schools.

The reason for this extremely harsh action against these innocent students was because the regents and state legislators chose to believe a series of what have proven to be nothing more than lies — that undocumented immigrant students were overrunning the state’s college campuses; taxpayers were subsidizing their costs; and legal resident students were being displaced by undocumented students.

The truth of the matter, according to a report conducted by the Board of Regents themselves, is less than 1 percent of the state’s public college students are undocumented immigrants, and the students who pay out-of-state tuition more than pay for their education.

So what do young people, who have the ganas and the brains to go to college, but are discriminated against at every turn, do?

They enroll in Freedom University.

Freedom University is the brainchild of five professors who work for the University of Georgia (UGA). Outraged that academically-ready kids would be barred from furthering their education because of their lack of citizenship status, they gathered together to come up with an ingenious idea — bring the college to them.

Or more specifically, one class a week that will be as rigorous as any college class found on any campus in the country. The inaugural free class won’t count for credit but it’s the hope of the professors that college credit will be awarded to these classes so the students can eventually count it towards their degree.

The five professors will rotate teaching the seminar course on their own time. The first class, taught at a local Latino community outreach center, will be American Civilization I. A focus on the American Experience through the lens of immigration and history.

UGA professor, Lorgia García Peña, told reporter Gustavo Martínez Contreras, in an interview for MundoHispánico, that apart from fighting for the Georgia laws to end, the idea propelling this initiative is to give as many undocumented youth the opportunity to get a college education.

With an estimate of about 74,000 students, who will be barred from attending college in Georgia, Freedom University is the best alternative for these students until legislators and the regents correct their misdeed.

The Freedom University semester started Sept. 8. Deadline for enrollment is Sept. 15. The class is free but university professors have set up a fundraising page and Amazon wish list to help raise money for gas cards to give volunteers who drive the students to school, books, materials and other items that any college student or classroom needs to help with the main objective of any school — help students learn.

The professors have set up a Facebook page and a petition section on the main web site for people to fill out to get the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to change their decision — and see that all young people deserve the opportunity to of higher education.

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