Schaer Bill Granting "Dreamers" Access to State Financial Aid Clears Assembly Committee

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Gary Schaer to make higher education an attainable reality for undocumented students in New Jersey was released by the Assembly Higher Education Panel on Monday.

Under the bill (A-3467), a student who meets the requirements established under the “Tuition Equality Act” enacted last year is eligible to apply for, and participate in, any student financial aid program administered by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA) or the Secretary of Higher Education.

“This is the other piece of the puzzle if we really want to help these students succeed and contribute to society,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Given the ever-escalating costs, many students, even with in-state tuition rates, are finding college more and more financially unattainable. Making this assistance available will make higher education a reality for these aspiring students.”

Currently, a student, including a student without legal immigration status, is allowed to pay the resident tuition rate at the state’s public institutions of higher education if the student meets the following requirements: (1) attended high school in New Jersey for three or more years; (2) graduated from a high school in this state or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in the state; (3) 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; and (4) 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 bill directs HESSA and the Secretary of Higher Education to establish procedures and forms that enable these students to apply for, and participate in, the state student financial assistance programs. These procedures and forms will be posted on the websites of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.

Existing federal law permits a state to make an individual without lawful immigration status eligible for a state or local public benefit for which that person would otherwise be ineligible under federal law only through the enactment of a state law that affirmatively provides for such eligibility.

The bill will now be considered for a floor vote by the full Assembly.