New Jersey law lets students without legal status get aid
Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation into law that permits students without legal status in the United States to apply for state financial aid.
The governor signed the legislation Wednesday in Newark.
It requires the state Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Higher Education secretary to set up procedures to allow students without lawful status to seek financial aid in New Jersey.
Students are eligible if they have attended high school in New Jersey for three or more years and graduated from a high school in the state.
Elizabeth resident Erika Martinez is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She says that while her DACA status is in limbo at the federal level, she is glad that she will be able to get aid to secure her spot in St. Peter University’s class of 2022.
“I did see the struggles of my sister and my cousin, and I [said] I don’t know if it’s possible for me. I don’t know if it’s affordable,” Martinez says.
Former Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation in 2013 permitting certain students without legal status to qualify for in-state tuition at New Jersey's public colleges.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz says that the bills have been debated in the state for a decade.
“We invest in these children in the K through 12 system and when they graduate, many at the top of their class, we turn our backs on them and pretend they don’t exist,” she says.
The Office of Legislative Services estimates that 600 students will now be eligible for financial aid thanks to this law. The additional financial aid is expected to cost the state $4.5 million.
Critics of the new law say that it favors non-citizens over citizens who could receive more financial aid.
Gov. Murphy responded to that view by pointing to the crowd attending the bill signing and saying, “I would invite any of those folks who have that attitude, beginning with our president, to come into this room and allow me or any of us to say, ‘This is the United States of America.’”
More than 22,000 DACA recipients live in New Jersey.
Seven states are suing the federal government to end the program.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.