New Jersey college students who are undocumented immigrants are now eligible for state financial aid under a bill signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The bill (S699) goes further than one signed in 2013 by former Gov. Chris Christie, who allowed undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition rates, but refused to make them eligible for financial aid.
“Tuition equity and equal access to financial aid are moral standards that we as public officials must uphold for all New Jersey students, whether they were born here or not,” Murphy said in a statement. “These young people came to this country as children, were educated in our schools and are just as American as anyone else. I’m proud to sign this legislation to help these students achieve their educational goals and their pursuit of a successful future.”
To qualify for the financial aid, the students must have attended a New Jersey high school for three years and have applied to legalize their immigration status, among other requirements.
The bill passed the Senate 27 to 10 in March and cleared the Assembly in April 49 to 24, mostly along party lines
Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) blasted the bill, calling it “fundamentally wrong for our citizens and taxpayers.”
“I stand in defense of a basic belief: that citizens of the United States should be treated as well or better than non-citizens who happen to be in our country,” Webber said in a statement. “The Democrats also are taking that financial aid away from New Jersey citizens to give that aid to non-citizens, and our citizens certainly see no fairness in that takeaway.”
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, called the measure “the other piece of the puzzle” needed to help students succeed.
“Given the ever-escalating costs, many students, even with in-state tuition rates, are finding college more and more financially unattainable,” he said in a statement. “Making this assistance available will make higher education a reality for these aspiring students.”
The Office of Legislative Services said the new law may result in a small increase in state expenditures, according to its fiscal analysis of the bill.