NJ looks to extend college financial aid to undocumented students

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

Student Madelyne Montes-Reyes was among them. She 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 could qualify for cheaper in-state tuition. But then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a measure that would make financial aid available. Dreamers are now hoping Gov. Phil Murphy will change that.

The 49-24 vote will push the measure, A-3467, to Murphy’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 toward 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 on 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 to the U.S. as children.

In February, New York, New Jersey and 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.

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

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