Dreamers will now have access to financial aid if they choose to attend a college in New Jersey.
A new bill that was recently approved by the New Jersey State Senate may give undocumented immigrants access to financial aid in the state.
Five years ago, Governor Chris Christie passed legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. However, Gov. Christie opposed legislation that would provide these Dreamers with financial aid to help pay for their tuition. But thanks to the financial aid bill S-699 that may be changing very soon, NJ.com reported.
The legislation would allow unauthorized immigrants to apply for financial aid in New Jersey. In order to qualify, applicants would be required to have lived in New Jersey and attended high school for a minimum of three years and to have enrolled in college in 2013 or later. They also would need to file paperwork at their college stating that they have applied or plan to apply for citizenship.
The bill includes an amendment that would allow Dreamers to use financial aid for private universities as well.
The bill would require that the state Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education set policies and procedures in place for the application process. Illegal immigrants would be allowed to apply for the same state programs as any other borrower. However, they would not be able to apply for Pell Grants.
The bill also aims to ensure that Dreamers won’t expose themselves to federal authorities by applying for financial aid. When borrowers apply for financial aid, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority and the Secretary of Higher Education are forbidden from requesting information on their immigration status.
While it is difficult to know exactly how much the legislation would cost, the state’s Office of Legislative Services approximated that the program would cost taxpayers $4.47 million. In a written report, state analysts stated that the office doesn’t yet have enough information on how many students would qualify but that “…existing data suggest that the fiscal impact would be small relative to current appropriations.”
Activist groups were quick to praise the New Jersey Senate for passing the legislation. Farrin Anello, a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU, said that while providing in-state tuition to Dreamers was a good first start, “…without eligibility for financial aid, college simply is not attainable for most students."
The bill passed through the Democrat-controlled Senate on Monday, March 26, but it does still have several hurdles to pass before becoming a law. Next, it moves on to the state Assembly where it may face some opposition. If it passes through the Assembly, the bill will go to Democratic Governor Phil Murphy, who has previously expressed support for the bill.