Assembly Dems Will Introduce Bill to Extend Higher Ed Opportunity to Undocumented Students

Bill would allow certain undocumented students to apply for state financial aid after governor line item vetoes provision in budget allowing for state aid eligibility

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/ Bergen), Assembly Budget Committee Chair Gary Schaer (D-Passaic/ Bergen) and Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) joined immigration advocates on Wednesday to announce the introduction of a bill that would extend state tuition aid assistance to undocumented students who want to go to college in New Jersey.

The budget approved by the Legislature included a provision to extend state financial aid assistance to undocumented students, but the provision was line item vetoed by the governor.

“Many families are being priced out of college. These students are simply asking for the same aid that is afforded to all students who want to attend college in the state,” said Speaker Prieto. “Who benefits from hindering a student who wants to continue his or her education? The governor had the chance to stand up for these students, but again he opted not to. We will continue to advocate for equal access to state financial aid, so that every student who wants to attend college will be able to do so.”

Under current law, undocumented students who meet certain requirements are eligible for the in-state tuition rate, but not state financial aid. The legislation, sponsored by Schaer, Johnson and Prieto, would make undocumented students who are eligible for in-state tuition also eligible for state financial aid.

“College is quickly becoming a luxury. Allowing undocumented students to pay the in-state tuition rate helps, but with the exuberant cost of tuition, it is simply not enough. We invest in these students through high school, but have made going to college in the state practically unaffordable,” said Schaer. “To deny a student the same financial resources that is available to every other student in New Jersey simply because of his or her immigration status is unjust and serves no purpose.”

“We should be looking for ways to make college more accessible to all students, not less. By prohibiting these students from even applying for state financial aid, we are making it harder, and in some cases, impossible for them to attend college in New Jersey,” said Johnson. “When we are already losing so many of our students to colleges and universities in other states, is that what we really want?