In-state tuition for illegal immigrants is ‘not enough,’ NJ lawmakers say
A study by a nonpartisan think-tank argues that many illegal immigrants have been unable to take advantage of in-state tuition and would be better served by access to state financial aid, and some New Jersey lawmakers agree.
Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), told NorthJersey.com that while New Jersey offering in-state tuition to illegal immigrants was a huge step, it was “not effective enough, since almost all undocumented students come from families earning only enough income to barely hang on.”
“Many students and their undocumented parents do not have established credit due to their illegal status."
The NJPP hopes its study will prove that current measures to help illegal immigrants attend college actually stymie their efforts.
“They are shut down from state and federal aid, they are also restricted from private loans, as many students and their undocumented parents do not have established credit due to their illegal status," said Erika J. Nava, coauthor of the study.
Some New Jersey lawmakers agree with this assessment.
In January, several members of the NJ legislature introduced a bill that would allow illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria to apply for state financial aid. The bill would require the student to have attended high school in the state for three or more years and have applied for legal status in the United States, though it has yet to move out of committee.
Gary Schaer, a primary sponsor of the bill, estimates the cost at around $7 million.
Previous efforts to provide state aid have failed, mainly because they have been blocked by Governor Chris Christie. While Christie signed the law that provides in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, he would not approve access to state aid.
The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), the agency that doles out financial aid grants, has attempted to take matters into its own hands, announcing recently that it will no longer deny financial aid applications that have a missing or incorrect Social Security numbers, a measure that specifically assists undocumented students applying for aid.
While New Jersey is trying to implement these changes on a state level, similar bills have also been introduced in the United States Congress.
The American Dream Promise Act, for instance, would prohibit universities from denying applicants based on immigration status, and the Fairness in Financial Aid Act would allow parents to apply for aid with taxpayer ID numbers, which are often used to fraudulently claim benefits.
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