Tuition Equality Act Moves Forward In Assembly

800px-NJ_State_HouseTRENTON – Legislation that would make undocumented students who want to attend a state college or university eligible for the in-state tuition rate and state financial aid was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.

Democrats are pushing ahead to bring tuition equality to New Jersey, despite the governor’s apparent post-election change of heart on the issue. Just weeks before the election, the governor abandoned his former stance and expressed support for tuition equality. He appeared to change his mind again after the election, stating that he could not support legislation passed by the state Senate.

“Regardless of where you stand on immigration, the reality is these students are here. They have been here, attended school here and now want to attend college here and earn a degree,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union), one of the sponsors of the bill. “We should be making higher education more accessible to all young people, not less. Let’s not deny these students the opportunity to achieve their version of the American dream.”

The bill (A-4225) would allow a student, including a student without lawful immigration status, to pay the in-state tuition at the state’s public institutions of higher education, and apply for any available state financial aid, 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.

Under the bill, a student who meets the above requirements for in-state tuition eligibility is also eligible to apply for, and participate in, any student financial aid program administered by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority or the Secretary of Higher Education. The bill directs the authority and the secretary to establish procedures and forms that enable these students to apply for the state student assistance programs.

The bill was approved 8-4 by the Assembly Budget Education.

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