Most undocumented high school graduates in New Jersey are eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state’s public colleges and universities. Advocates now are making a new push for them to get state financial aid.
When signing the Tuition Equity Act into law in 2013, Gov. Chris Christie rejected including state financial assistance for undocumented college students.
But with the average undocumented family earning about $39,000, the prospect of a four-year college education nearly impossible, said analyst Erika Nava of the left-leaning New Jersey Policy Perspective.
“Three years from now, it is estimated that New Jersey will have the second-highest share of jobs in the nation that require a bachelor’s degree, making it increasingly important for working-class families to send their children to college,” she said. “For undocumented students to get a fair shot at climbing the economic ladder and investing fully in New Jersey later in life, financial aid is essential.”
That’s the case with Patrick Martinez, 20, who came to the U.S. from Peru with his parents. After working two jobs to put himself through Brookdale Community College, Martinez said he’d like to continue his education. He’s put that plan on hold, though, because he can’t afford it.
“Without giving undocumented youth access to state financial aid, New Jersey is not only pushing us to seek education in other states, but is also contributing to the creation of a permanent underclass of residents who are unable to fulfill their potential,” he said.
Lawmakers are considering allowing undocumented students to apply for state tuition assistance grants.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer said Wednesday he’s hoping the governor will reconsider his position, adding that New Jersey stands to benefit from helping more students complete college, get a better job, and pay more taxes.