And as a matter of fact, federal law makes it clear that those in this country without documentation are ineligible for admission to public colleges and universities - regardless of whether they are charged the "in-state" or "out-of-state" admission fee.
The U.S. Code spells out postsecondary education as a "state or local public benefit" for which aliens are ineligible. That's because the costs of running such institutions are heavily subsidized by taxes and other public dollars.
That law - like too many others regarding illegal immigration - has been ignored for far too long.
THE CONTROVERSY over a Kennesaw State University student who turned out to be an illegal immigrant has been an eye-opener. We suspect few Cobb County residents had any idea that it was so easy for those in this country illegally to enroll in our state's colleges. And we suspect few Cobb residents realized their tax dollars are going to help educate such people.
Many, including some in these pages, have criticized KSU and its president, Dr. Dan Papp, for allowing the person in question, Jessica Colotl, to enroll and for their efforts to allow her to return to school after being arrested on a traffic charge and sent to an immigration detention center in Alabama.
While Papp is not above criticism in this case, the bigger culprit would appear to be the Regents system itself, which for years has been blithely allowing illegals to enroll. Although it requires college applicants to specify on the application form whether they are U.S. citizens or not, a negative answer to that question is not grounds for rejection. Rather, if they meet other criteria and are enrolled, it merely means they must pay out-of-state tuition costs, rather than the much cheaper in-state rate.
So in a sense, some of the ire that has been directed at KSU officials should be sent to their bosses at the Regents. If the higher authority (in this case, the Board of Regents) is not going to make a big deal about adhering to immigration laws, why should the lesser authorities (in this case, the admissions office at KSU and other colleges)? It's a parallel to the argument made by many state and local governments through the years: If Washington is not going to enforce immigration laws, how can we? Well, as we have seen, the people of Arizona have now turned that argument on its head. And that appears to be what is happening here as well.
Former state Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), who now is running for governor, on Tuesday became the first candidate to address the KSU controversy.
"The point I'm making is to start with the Board of Regents, to create a citizenship verification for any student applying to a university, to make sure Georgia taxpayers are not subsidizing those who are not in this country legally," Johnson said.
"When we passed Georgia's tough illegal immigration law ... we required the Board of Regents to establish a policy for nonresidents. They apparently did not do that."
He added that if elected, he would ensure that happens.
Meanwhile, Cobb's two candidates for state attorney general also had little sympathy for the way the case had been handled.
The state attorney general should notify all colleges that they must ensure that all students receiving HOPE scholarships or in-state tuition are in the country legally, said former Cobb Commission Chairman Sam Olens, who now is running for the GOP nomination as AG.
"Those benefits should be given to legal Georgia residents," Olens said.
And state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna), who is seeking his party's nod as the AG nominee, said KSU's actions in the case don't seem right.
"It's hard for me to see why the university's lawyer was acting as an advocate on behalf of a student. For the university to be doing that, seems to be outside of their mission," he said.
INDEED. WE'RE STILL WAITING for an explanation - even a half-baked one - from the state's higher-ed brass as to why Georgia taxpayers should be paying a dime to provide college educations for those in this country illegally. And as for their policy that illegals can be admitted, but only if they pull full tuition, why should they be enrolled at all? Those classroom seats at UGA and KSU and Georgia Tech and elsewhere rightfully belong to those who are lawful citizens of this country - and whose taxes, and the taxes of their forebears - have helped to build this state and those schools.
It's past time for government entities across the spectrum - from the KSU campus to the Board of Regents to Atlanta to the White House - to finally show they are serious about adhering to our immigration laws.