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Do Regents policies penalize college-able immigrants and non-native speakers?

Tim Brotherton is an educator who has been working with English language learners in the United States and overseas for over 30 years. He lives in Decatur.

In this piece, he says admissions tests now being required at Georgia State University-Perimeter College are closing out a large population of immigrant and refugee non-native speakers of English who have historically been very successful at graduating or transferring to four-year institutions.

By Tim Brotherton

Changes implemented quietly this semester for new applicants to Georgia State University-Perimeter College are denying admission to many immigrants and refugees who would have been admitted in the past.

The standards have come down from the Board of Regents and have not been challenged by GSU. They are closing out a large population of immigrant and refugee non-native speakers of English who have been successful at graduating or transferring to four-year institutions for the past 30 years.

There is ample data available showing that these students, after completing Perimeter’s English as a Second Language Program and gaining full admission to college level coursework, are more successful and have higher grade point averages than other Perimeter College students.  Many have transferred to Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and Georgia State. Others have successfully completed dental hygiene and nursing programs.

Georgia, and its economy, will be the losers if nothing is done to correct a policy change that limits their potential. So far, no one seems to care.

Three changes in testing are causing the problem at Perimeter. First, the minimum TOEFL -- Test of English as a Foreign Language -- score for admission is being raised from 460 to 500. Second, the Georgia State Test of English Proficiency, which provided a pathway to admission for many local high school graduates with limited English proficiency, is no longer being accepted for admissions. Third, and most important, the Accuplacer, a new test for admissions, is being used for most of these students. It is not designed for non-native speakers and is excluding a great number who would have been admitted before.

As part of the Regents’ move to streamline remedial education, the changes have closed the door to many highly motivated non-native speakers of English who may have only been in the United States a few years before entering college. The vast majority of these students are graduates of metro Atlanta high schools.

Before now, they were admitted to Perimeter and were allowed to take some college-level courses, for example math, while working to get their English language skills up to college level. Many will now be denied admission, period.

While no one knows exactly how many students will be impacted, it will probably be in the hundreds each semester. These English as a Second Language students will now have no affordable option to continue their education. DeKalb College/Georgia Perimeter College had always been a place where students could come to follow their dreams when there were perhaps no other pathways open to them. It was a true access institution.

When Georgia State University took over, there was an open and voluble promise to maintain GPC’s mission as an access institution. The promise now rings hollow.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.