New Jersey Assembly Democrats:Revised "Tuition Equality Act" Bill to Make Undocumented Students in NJ Eligible for In-State Tuition Heads to Governor's Desk

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Revised "Tuition Equality Act" Bill to Make Undocumented Students in NJ Eligible for In-State Tuition Heads to Governor's Desk

Sponsored by Johnson, Caride, Quijano, Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, Schaer, Wimberly, Greenwald & Prieto, the revised bill concurs with the governor's conditional veto
(TRENTON) - Preferring not to leave undocumented students in New Jersey who want to attend college in the state completely empty handed, the General Assembly on Thursday approved a revised version of the "Tuition Equality Act" bill which takes into account the governor's conditional veto, and makes undocumented students who want to attend a state college or university eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status, as long as they meet certain provisions.

The bill (A-4225) is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Marlene Caride, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, Gary Schaer, Benjie Wimberly, Lou Greenwald and Speaker-elect Vincent Prieto. The original version, which included state financial aid, was approved by the Assembly earlier in the day, but was conditionally vetoed by the governor.

The revised bill was approved 50-26-1 by the Assembly and 27-7 by the Senate on Thursday, and now heads to the governor's desk.

"We remained hopeful that the governor would hear the pleas of the students who rallied and spoke in support of the original bill, but alas, that did not happen," said Johnson (D-Bergen/Hudson). "This is not a compromise. This is taking away tuition aid from children. It was either approving this version, or sending these students right back to where they started."

"It is not the outcome that everyone had hoped for, but at least now these students will be eligible for the in-state tuition, which is better than not being eligible at all," said Caride (D Bergen/Passaic).

"The governor is being shortsighted in not realizing the true value of our students who are multilingual and multicultural. We are competing on a global market and must have the workforce to compete," Quijano (D-Union).

"This bill is the only way we can help alleviate some of the financial burden faced by these students. Hopefully this will help students and families of modest means better control the ever-increasing price of a college education," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

The revised bill (A-4225) allows a student, including a student without lawful immigration status, to pay the in-state tuition at the state's public institutions of higher education, if the student meets the following requirements:
  • attended high school in this state for three or more years;
  • graduated from a high school in this state or attained the equivalent of a high school diploma in the state;
  • registers as an entering student or is currently enrolled in a public institution of higher education not earlier than the fall semester of the 2013-2014 academic year;
  • in the case of a person without lawful immigration status, files an affidavit with the institution of higher education stating that the student has filed an application to legalize his immigration status or will file an application as soon as he is eligible to do so.
"This issue has always been about fairness. College is expensive. We wanted to give these students access to the same financial resources available to all other students, but this is as far as we can go, without making their college dreams harder to reach," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester)

"We must give credit to those students who championed this cause with candor and eloquence. Their passionate advocacy sadly did not reach the administration. This is an imperfect solution, but the only one that will make affording college more plausible," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic)

"The governor seems to be splitting hairs, essentially saying one form of assistance is okay for these students but the other one is not. I don't understand it. It is not what we hoped for, but it is better than the alternative, which is leaving these students with nothing," said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen).

"All these students asked for was an opportunity. We went with the bill we believed was the most just hoping that fairness would prevail. The governor's position is disappointing, but at least this revised version prevents saddling these students with a higher tuition rate," said Greenwald (D Camden/Burlington).

"This was a hard fought battle by students. We agreed with them that for the process to be truly equal state financial aid had to be included. We modified our position, but regrettably the governor did not. Eligibility for the in-state tuition rate is better than nothing," said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson)

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