It has now been about one year since Governor Chris Christie signed in to law a bill that has allowed a portion of New Jersey’s undocumented residents to be eligible for in-state college tuition starting in January 2014. In taking that step, New Jersey became the 16th state in the country to permit such immigrants the ability to access in-state tuition rates at its public institutions of higher learning. Two other states allow undocumented immigrants to pay such rates with slightly different requirements.
Referred to in New Jersey as the “New Jersey Dream Act” but actually officially titled “The Tuition Equality Act”, the new law gives an undocumented immigrant the opportunity to qualify for such lower tuition rate if the applicant attended school for at least three years in the state’s high schools and then graduated from such a school. Students must be accepted to a public college or university, and must sign an affidavit stating their intention to file for legal immigration status.
The difference, in terms of cost, is hardly insignificant. At a university such as Rutgers, the largest in the state’s university system, a student can save up to $14,000 annually from not having to pay out-of-state tuition costs. Of course, the degree of variation will differ depending on which college or university is concerned. It is notable, however, that the law does not permit those who qualify for the lower tuition rates to also qualify for financial aid under that state’s aid programs.
In making this change, New Jersey maintains compliance with current federal law. Under section 505 of the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Reconciliation Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), states may provide such access to in-state tuition rates so long as they do not deprive the same benefit to U.S. citizens in the same circumstances, regardless of their residence.
The Shulman Law Group, LLC has successfully prepared and filed many petitions on behalf of its clients who are family members, including spouses, of U.S. citizens to work and study in the United States. Members of the firm advise New Jersey residents with regard to developments in its law which have direct relevance to the state’s immigrant population. Its comprehensive experience in the field enables the firm’s attorneys and professional staff to understand what information and materials needs to be produced in order to ensure petitions receive appropriate consideration. The firm’s excellence is fortified by its rigorous determination to ensure that all procedural matters are properly addressed.