The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to be eligible for college financial aid.
17-year-old Maria Mendez lives in Plainfield. She came to the United States from Mexico when she was three. She was recently accepted at six colleges and says access to financial aid will determine whether she can pursue her dream to major in communications.
“I have never qualified for most scholarships and for state or federal aid. When this financial aid bill passes undocumented students will know that their home, the state of New Jersey, will give them a chance.”
18-year-old Erika Martinez lives in Elizabeth. She came to the U.S. from El Salvador when she was two. She’s hoping to become an immigration attorney but needs access to state financial aid programs.
“It’s difficult to understand why I’ve worked just as hard as my classmates throughout my four years of high school only to find New Jersey’s excellent state and private colleges and universities out of reach financially.”
Erika Nava with New Jersey Policy Perspective says if the measure does not become law, undocumented immigrants who can’t afford tuition might have to drop out of college.
“If New Jersey failed to act, the investments we already made in these students from kindergarten through high school will largely be lost. New Jersey’s undocumented students are our neighbors. They attend our school like our children. Their families pay taxes like yours. To continue to shut the door to a brighter future makes no economic or moral sense.”
New Jersey Republican chairman Doug Steinhardt says people in the state illegally should not be eligible for benefits available to those here legally.
The Office of Legislative Services says the bill could lead to an increase in state expenditures of about four-and-half million dollars.