(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Annette Quijano and Mila Jasey to make higher education an attainable reality for undocumented students in New Jersey was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday.
Under the new law (formerly bill A-3467), a student who meets the requirements established under the “Tuition Equality Act” enacted last year or in the case of a student enrolled in an independent institution of higher education meets all requirements the Act except for the requirement to enroll in a public institution of higher education, 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 was 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.”
“Opening our financial aid programs to more students will make affording a college education possible for more New Jersey families,” Quijano (D-Union). “Any student who has attended a New Jersey high school, received their diploma, and aims to clear up their immigration status should be allowed to apply for financial aid to help with college costs just as any other student in their graduating class.”
“We can do more for the New Jersey DREAMers to help them achieve their higher education goals,” Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “With this new law, we continue to invest in their education and make it possible for them to attain their college goals here in New Jersey.”
This new law 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 was released by the Assembly Higher Education panel on March 5; and approved by the full Assembly April 12, 49-24-0.