New Jersey may begin offering college financial aid for DACA students

New Jersey State Capitol building in Trenton. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

New Jersey State Capitol building in Trenton. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would allow undocumented immigrants in the DACA  program to qualify for state financial aid to help cover the costs of college.

There are more than 22,000 DACA participants in New Jersey, the ninth highest number of the so-called Dreamers in the country.

Stephen Ruszczyk, a sociology professor at Montclair State University, said the legislation would help DACA students afford a college education.

“They’re dreaming in the same colors as their peers and they fully recognize their potential to make good on those dreams. New Jersey legislators can end this nightmare in which dreamers are most often forced to shed their aspirations and let go of many of their future contributions,” Ruszczyk said.

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Rutgers President Robert Barchi supports the legislation. He said it would help the more than 400 registered Dreamers at Rutgers.

“There is a moral reason why we should be doing this. There is frankly a very pragmatic reason why we should be keeping these individuals educated and active in our state,” he said.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz said this assistance will help create a more educated workforce and a stronger economy.

“This bill recognizes that even though the federal government is failing every single person across this country in many ways, that New Jersey will step up to protect all of us. Diversity is our strength and together we can continue moving forward,” Ruiz said.

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