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Colleges to check citizenship of fall applicants
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Colleges and universities across the state must now review the citizenship of all fall 2010 applicants.

The Board of Regents passed the motion Wednesday during its monthly board meeting after considering the highly publicized case of Jessica Colotl, an undocumented student at Kennesaw State University.

Regent Kenneth Bernard suggested that the board deny any waiver that allows undocumented citizens to receive in-state tuition and require campus review of fall admission applications within the next 60 days.

“This is the board wanting to provide a stamp or backing to what has already taken place,” said spokesman John Millsaps. In 2006, Chancellor Erroll Davis sent a memo to presidents, telling them they could not use waivers to provide in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. In May, Davis sent another memo to presidents, telling them to pay close attention to the resident verification process.

“This is just more explicit, telling the colleges to go back and verify and submit a report,” Millsaps said. “The online applications we use already have a lot of questions and request documentation. The point is to pay attention to the information provided and ensure everyone is paying the correct tuition.”

The board also decided Wednesday to assemble a committee, which will include five regents and four university presidents, to examine how to meticulously check the citizenship of all students.

Wednesday’s motions were intended as interim efforts between now and when the committee starts running.

Willis Potts, elected to chair of the board on Tuesday, said he would like a “thorough review” of the residency verification process by August if possible and October at the latest, Millsaps said.

Illegal immigrants are allowed to attend a public college in Georgia but must pay out-of-state tuition, unlike KSU student Colotl, who received in-state tuition as a Georgia resident. College officials weren’t aware of her citizenship status until the Mexico native was stopped for a traffic violation in March. Immigration officials began a deportation process but allowed a one-year reprieve so she could complete her degree. She will now be charged out-of-state tuition.

Officials at Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University don’t think the new move by the regents will pose any problems in the next 60 days.

“Most of the information for applications is stored in a database and is searchable,” said Kate Maine, public relations director for North Georgia. “We’ll simply compile a report.”

The policy is “really reconfirming what we’ve already been asked to do,” said Gainesville State President Martha Nesbitt.

“We’ve been doing it anyway, so it’s not going to be an issue. The only difference is that we’ll report it specifically to the board,” she said. “I asked our director of admissions if we had any issues with this, and he told me we’ve been following the paperwork to the letter of the law since it changed in 2005.”

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