Anakbayan NJ commends passage of in-state tuition law in New Jersey

A mass action for tuition relief held at the New Jersey State Legislature building in Trenton.

A mass action for tuition relief held at the New Jersey State Legislature building in Trenton.

Anakbayan New Jersey hailed the passage on December 20 of the In-State Tuition Bill, which was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.

New Jersey becomes the 16th state where undocumented youth may qualify for in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities. Originally nicknamed the NJ DREAM Act, the bill had initially opened tuition assistance programs like Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) to undocumented students.

However, Christie struck down provisions for state financial aid following a compromise reached with Democratic legislators.

“He expressed misplaced concerns that such provisions would turn New Jersey into a ‘magnet state,’ and that access to these programs was an overreach and harmful to the state economy,” Anakbayan NJ said in a statement. A magnet state is one that attracts the influx of out-of-town residents and may cause a strain on the local economy.

“These arguments are untrue because financial aid to undocumented immigrant students would make up less than 1 percent of state aid, with less than 1,000 students per year estimated to qualify after completing the FAFSA application and meeting income standards,” said Anakbayan NJ.

Moreover, the group argued that states with similar laws, such as New Mexico, California and Texas, have “not experienced negative economic consequences.”

Though only a partial version of the NJ DREAM Act, the group said the new legislation is a victory for Filipino youth and other immigrant communities who have spent more than a decade of community organizing and lobbying.

Filipinos in New Jersey are seen to benefit from the passage of the law. “With a growing population of 125,000 Filipinos, New Jersey has the fifth largest population of Filipinos in the nation,” said Anakbayan NJ.

Filipino Americans played a “significant role” in advocating for the NJ DREAM Act, especially in Jersey City, which is home to the second highest concentration of Filipinos in the state. On February 27, Anakbayan NJ worked closely with then-Councilman-at-Large (now, Council President) Rolando Lavarro Jr. and community allies. The result is the first municipal resolution endorsing the call for tuition equality in the state. This led to a series of mass actions calling for tuition relief for immigrant families.

The In-State Tuition law is a stepping stone towards further progress, said Anakbayan NJ. “It provides access to state financial aid to already distressed undocumented youth and their families.”

The next immediate step is ensuring implementation of the law. In time for the spring semester, public colleges and universities must be guided, and held accountable, in the transitional process of adjusting tuition policies for undocumented students, they said.

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