Students, lawmakers resume push for immigrant access to college financial aid
TRENTON - New Jersey already allows the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates for college, but they still have to be able to pay for it.
Hector Martinez says he almost didn't go to college, and knows other students in the same position. "I know so many people that have given up on the idea of even going to school because they say this is not for me, I can't afford it," he says.
An undocumented immigrant, Martinez is not eligible for financial aid after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed that out-of-the state budget.
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Instead, Hector found a cheaper school out of state, an unfair compromise according to immigration advocates.
"Full equality is not when we both get to pay $10,000, but you get $5,000 in extra aid despite both of us paying the same amount of taxes," says immigration activist Giancarlo Tello.
Wednesday, they joined Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to announce plans to take another shot at getting the bill past the governor.
"They're here. They're part of our society, they're working here, paying rent, they're living here," says Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. "They're part of our economy."
Under the plan, those brought to the country illegally, but who grew up in New Jersey, would have the chance to apply for the state's tuition aid grants and other programs. Lawmakers say because money is tight, they aren't adding more money to the program, just making more of the state's residents eligible.
The last time he vetoed the bill, Christie said opening up financial aid would cost the state too much and drive up out-of-state enrollment at the expense of in-state students.