New Jersey Becomes the Latest State to Allow Undocumented Foreign Students to Qualify for In-State College Tuition

High School Grad.jpgEarlier this month, New Jersey Governor and Republican Chris Christie made the national news yet again when his state became the most recent to let undocumented foreign students attend New Jersey public schools at the in-state tuition rate, giving these students the same financial advantage as the state's other residents who have legal immigration status in the United States. Governor Christie signed the bill after the state's legislature reached a compromise that dropped financial aid eligibility for these foreign students, but which qualified them for the in-state tuition rates.

Prior to New Jersey's passage of this legislation, undocumented foreign students who gained admission into New Jersey colleges were required to pay the out of state tuition rate which is always much higher than the in-state tuition rate. The difference between the two rates is very significant. For example, the popular and prestigious Rutgers University charges approximately $10,700 in tuition every year for its in-state students, whereas out of state students must pay about $14,000 per year to attend the same university.

With this legislation, New Jersey has joined 16 other states that already let undocumented foreign students pay in-state tuition rates including California, Kansas, Texas, and Colorado. Legislators throughout the other states in the union are drafting similar bills to be introduced into their own state assemblies. Many immigration advocate groups applaud these bills and suggest that these pieces of legislation are a direct result of President Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

When the Obama Administration enacted the DACA policy in June of 2012, the Administration collaborated with the Department of Homeland Security and promised to temporarily halt the deportation of undocumented foreign nationals if the foreign nationals met certain requirements such as arriving in the United States as minors and possessing a clean criminal record.

In addition to letting undocumented foreign students qualify for in-state tuition, several states are also providing other benefits to this demographic, benefits that were previously withheld from them, including eligibility for unrestricted state driver's licenses, preventing businesses from retaliating against them for work-related complaints on account of their undocumented immigration status, and advising local law enforcement officers to release those foreign nationals who had committed low-level or non-serious and nonviolent crimes (such as running a red light or speeding).

It is important to point out that the passage of the New Jersey bill, especially under a Republican governor, will undoubtedly bring hope to the hundreds of thousands of undocumented foreign students who live in states that have not yet passed similar legislation. Notably, it seems that the state of Florida is following New Jersey's example as Florida is finally seriously considering passing its own in-state tuition legislation after several failed bills that were introduced in almost every legislative session in the past decade.

This news from New Jersey is certainly a step in the right for direction towards securing rights for the undocumented foreign student population. If you are in the U.S. without legal immigration status and want to attend a university, pursue employment, or travel, contact our office at 650-293-0270 to speak to a member of our legal team about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

Applying for an Immigration DREAM is actually a Complex Process, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2012
Reform Bill Increases Immigration Opportunities for Afghan Nationals, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2013

Immigration News / by Michelle Gee