We believe — as do many — that when people don’t have access to knowledge, they don’t have access to power. Knowledge gives us the ability to do what we want in the world and make the communities we love a better place. It creates opportunities and expands our options; this is what allows us to become our best selves.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s growing immigrant community has been locked out of the system that could propel them to reach their full potential, benefiting both their community and our state’s workforce. We have seen scores of family and friends struggle to make ends meet to afford the same education we received.
Expanding higher education opportunities for immigrants would be integral to filling the skills gap, building a prosperous workforce, responding in full to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuring sustained economic growth for the state. Georgia is already experiencing a labor shortage in some essential sectors like education, health care, and information technology. Making education attainable and affordable for all Georgians is the first step toward a prepared and competitive global workforce.
Thankfully, State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, has introduced the bipartisan Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act to open the door now closed to some Georgia students. He’s also opening the door for Georgia’s economy to excel.
Our state is home to more than one million immigrants – more than one tenth of the entire population, including 20,000+ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, young immigrants who came to the United States as children. Georgia DACA recipients contribute more than $60 million in state and local taxes, and almost $1 billion to our state economy, each year.
Unfortunately, they aren’t afforded in-state tuition prices, even though they’ve called Georgia home nearly their entire lives. Failure to provide tuition equity to Georgia DACA recipients causes us to lose out on an estimated $10 million in additional tax revenue each year.
Georgia’s immigrants make up about 15% of our state’s total workforce, and account for more than 10% of our state’s nurses and 18% of health aides. With expanded access to higher education opportunities that allows the best and brightest to compete for spots at our state school, more Georgia DACA recipients could serve as health care heroes.
Georgia’s immigrants, like our parents, are our neighbors, colleagues, business owners, and friends. Our state has prospered because of our support for entrepreneurship and hard work, regardless of a person’s background. To continue that success, we should apply the same standards to our state education system to grow the workforce available for vital industries. Today, we call on our state lawmakers to unite behind the Georgia Resident In-State Tuition Act to make that education attainable.