ICYMI: Growing push by lawmakers to help ‘Dreamers’ attend Georgia colleges

State lawmakers from both major political parties have introduced three pieces of legislation this month to help Georgia’s Dreamers attend college in the state they call home.

The latest bill, the Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act (HB-997), introduced this week and led by State Representative Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), would grant in-state tuition to students who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 12, lived in Georgia at least four years and graduated from a Georgia high school or have a GED, among other requirements. State Representatives Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) and Spencer Frye (D-Athens) also co-sponsored the legislation.

Read FWD.us’ statement on the Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act (HB-997) here.

Dreamers in Georgia currently pay out-of-state tuition, which is at least three times higher than the in-state cost to study at University System of Georgia schools, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Tuition equity would enable more talented, qualified individuals to advance their education, which will help fill the skills gap and address key labor shortages, allowing Georgia to build a more prosperous workforce, create jobs and boost economic growth.

The legislative push to create more opportunity for Georgia’s Dreamers comes as the United States Supreme Court is slated to rule on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently protects nearly 700,000 young people from deportation, including 21,000 people from Georgia.

Read Jaime Rangel's oped: Dreamer education is critical to Georgia's economic success that highlights his experience as a Dalton resident and DACA recipient. Rangel urges Georgia lawmakers to pass this legislation expeditiously to prevent “pushing out ambitious young adults to other economies rather than allowing them to strengthen our own workforce and help fill the labor gap."

Also published this week was a Letter to the Editor in the Gainesville Times from Diana Vela, a political science student who is currently protected from deportation under the DACA program. In the letter, Diana writes: “Tuition equity encourages young students to put their sights on earning a higher education degree so they too can one day participate in the workforce to give back to the Georgia communities they call home.”

Below please find more background on the impact of tuition equity for Dreamers in Georgia.


Tuition equity would make the thousands of Dreamers, which includes both DACA recipients and non-DACA immigrant youth who came to the United States as children, who call Georgia home and have lived the majority of their lives here, eligible for the same in-state tuition as other individuals who have established residency.

Failure to provide tuition equity for Georgia Dreamers is preventing hard working young people from achieving their full potential and is holding Georgia’s economy back from additional job creation and growth. Instead of keeping the best and brightest minds in the state and contributing to the economy, Georgia Dreamers frequently seek out educational opportunities elsewhere – taking their talents with them – because they can’t afford college in Georgia.

Georgia is experiencing a labor shortage in key industries like education, health care and information technology. Educating Dreamers who can then enter Georgia’s workforce and help fill these gaps with make our workforce and economy stronger.

It’s been found that Georgians with a college degree earn twice as much as those without one, and are two times less likely to be unemployed, so providing the 90 percent of Georgia Dreamers who are enrolled in or graduated from high school are on track to attend college are able to do so, would help invigorate our economy and benefit our communities. By barring these academically-prepared Dreamers from accessing in-state tuition rates, Georgia loses out on an estimated $10 million in tax revenue per year. Not to mention, when Georgia’s Dreamers can’t afford to go to college, the state loses an estimated $1 billion in public education spending over the course of five years.

The Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act is co-sponsored by Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton), Wes Cantrell (R-Woodstock), Josh Bonner (R-Fayetteville) and Spencer Frye (D-Athens). Under HB 997, dreamers would need to meet the following requirements to become eligible for in-state tuition:

  • Physically present in the state of Georgia for at least 4 years prior to university admission
  • Physically present in the U.S. before age 12
  • Graduated from a Georgia high school or passed GED testing requirements
  • Are under the age of 30 at initial application

This bill does not lift the ban on undocumented students from being able to attend Georgia’s most competitive universities (specifically, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia College & State University), nor does it allow access to HOPE, Scholarship Fund, Pell Grant, or other sources of state or federal financial aid.


Fast Facts:

  • 21,350 Number of DACA recipients in Georgia
  • 5,000+ Number of college graduates added to the workforce if Georgia Dreamers are granted in-state tuition
  • $ 610.3 million Spending power of Georgia Dreamers
  • $ 61 million Annual contribution of state and local taxes by Georgia Dreamers
  • $ 10 million Annual increase to state and local revenues if Georgia expands higher education opportunities for Dreamers

When Georgia makes it more difficult for its Dreamers to continue their education, the state only hurts its economy, stifling innovation and growth:

$9,000: Denying access to in-state tuition negates investments made to Dreamers in earlier K-12 education; between the federal, state, and local governments, taxpayers spend more than $9,000 per student every year in Georgia.

$10 million: Georgia loses out on an estimated $10 million in tax revenue per year, simply by barring academically prepared Dreamers from accessing in-state tuition rates.

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