Christie balks at N.J. tuition-equality plan for immigrants

  (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo, file)

(Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo, file)

Gov. Chris Christie says he will not sign a bill granting in-state tuition to New Jersey brought to the country illegally as children without changes to the legislation.

The bill on Christie’s desk provides that immigrants be charged the in-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities, as well as making those students eligible for tuition assistance grants. Christie said Monday night he wants that provision out. He also wants to limit application of the law to students who arrived in the country by 2012.

“I believe in tuition equality. This is beyond tuition equality. This is tuition equality plus plus plus,” Christie said. “I’m not putting the taxpayers of this state at any greater burden on this.”

The governor denied that his objections represent an about-face from statements he made during his re-election campaign in support of a tuition equality measure.

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However, Giancarlo Tello with the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition said it’s the same package the Legislature was considering this summer, something Christie knew when he endorsed the plan.

“It seems like when he said [equality] to all, he only meant to these certain groups for these certain things and that doesn’t seem like true equality,” Tello said.

Only one of 15 states that have passed tuition equality bills have dates capping eligibility, such as the one Christie proposed, Tello said.

Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said he’ll bring the governor’s objections back to his colleagues in the Senate, but that the changes would “gut the bill.”

“I’m not making anything up,” Sweeney said Tuesday afternoon. “He knew this was going to pass.”

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