New Jersey looks to extend college financial aid to undocumented students

TRENTON, N.J. — Immigrant students stood up when the vote came down — New Jersey’s assembly gave the final approval needed to send a bill (A-3467) to the governor's desk that would extend state financial aid for college to undocumented students.

Students like Madelyne Montes-Reyes, who left Montclair State University last year because she couldn’t keep up with her tuition payments.

"It’s put my dreams on hold,” she said. "I want to continue and finish my undergrad and also go forward with my masters in childhood advocacy and policy, unfortunately due to financial reasons it’s very difficult to do that.”

Since 2013, undocumented students in New Jersey can qualify for cheaper, in-state tuition. But Governor Christie vetoed a measure that would make financial aid available. Dreamers are hoping Governor Phil Murphy will change that.

The 49-24 vote will push the measure to the governor’s desk.

“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,” said Annette Quijano (D-Union).

Under the bill, students would need to show proof that they are working towards legal status; that they attended a New Jersey high school for 3 years; and they must demonstrate their need for financial assistance by providing income tax information.

In federal court Thursday, New Jersey’s Attorney General filed a brief to back dreamers facing deportation. The Trump administration has threatened to scrap the DACA program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children. In February, New York, New Jersey and a group including 15 other states challenged the elimination of DACA, but the federal government is now appealing. The appeal will be argued before the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where New Jersey’s brief was filed today.

Financing the higher education of undocumented young people in New Jersey is expected to cost the state an estimated 17 cents per student.

Governor Phil Murphy said on the campaign trail that he would support a measure like the one passed today.