December 1st, 2011
01:09 PM ET

Freedom University: studying in secret

By Thelma Gutierrez and Traci Tamura, CNN

Editor’s Update: In the hours since we first reported this story, there have been significant developments. The University Council at the University of Georgia voted to pass a resolution which opposes the Board of Regents policy passed last fall. The policy forbids undocumented students from attending five of its top public universities. It’s a symbolic win for supporters of academically qualified undocumented students who are banned from attending UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College and State University, schools that the Board of Regents say had admitted undocumented students in the last two years. Regents spokesman John Millsaps told CNN while the regents have no plan to revisit the issue, they are not preventing undocumented students from getting an education. Millsaps says there are 30 other public institutions in the University System of Georgia that they can attend. He said the regents passed the policy amid growing public concern that undocumented students were taking limited seats away from qualified citizens and legal immigrants. He emphasized the regents have no plans to change the policy.

Every Sunday, in an unmarked building, in an undisclosed location in the college town of Athens, Georgia, a group of students quietly gather in secret. They are aspiring professors, diplomats and engineers who have been banned from Georgia's top five public universities.

But here, in this donated space, it is safe to study.

Undocumented students attending class at Freedom University

Undocumented students attending class at Freedom University

This place is called Freedom University. It has one classroom and four professors, scholars who've taught at the likes of Amherst, Harvard, Emory and Yale, who are teaching here, on their days off, without pay.

Their students are undocumented. They have nowhere else to go and no one else to teach them.

The American Dream

Keish grew up in South Korea. She remembers the harsh education regimen in her home town of Seoul. Classes Monday through Saturday. After-class academic programs every day. Keish and her fellow students in Seoul were basically at school from 8 in the morning until 8 at night every day except Sunday.

It sounds like a much more ambitious education system than in the United States. So how is it that Keish's parents, who lived an upper-middle-class life in Seoul, her father earning enough money as a salesman to enable her mother to stay at home – how is it that such a couple would move to America with one thing in mind: their children's education?
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