By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
There was passionate testimony today for and against allowing the children of illegal aliens attend New Jersey colleges at in-state tuition rates.
“Do we punish children! Children! for what their parents may or may not have done,” said NJ Immigration Policy Network former director Charles Goldstein
“These people are here illegally. When you talk about children, they had 18 years to become a citizen,” said Monmouth County Republican Committee Deanna De’ Liberto.
In-state tuition can cost half or even one-third of what out -of-state students pay. The bill would let anyone who attended high school here for three years attend a state college or university at the lower rate.
“I want to get an education, I’m blessed enough that I was able to go to Bergen Community College and graduate, but now I have to drop out of Rutgers University, I have to pay $2,700 per class,” said Giancarlo Tello.
The Senate has already passed the bill. The Assembly Budget Committee today merged its version with the Senate’s to get it to the governor’s desk fast.
Gov. Chris Christie has said he supports tuition equality in principle but that this bill is too generous. For example, it allows eligible students to also qualify for state financial aid.
“One of my big concerns with this bill is that it will treat non-citizens, residents of the state but non-citizens better than it will treat citizens of the United States,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber. “Someone who lives across the river in Pennsylvania and wants to go to Rutgers will not get the same subsidized tuition as someone who lives in New Jersey, might be a non-citizen and wants to go to Rutgers, under this bill.”
“We stand for what we call genuine tuition equality, which we define as in-state tuition and financial aid,” said Bergen Community College Trustee Cyd Wilson.
The committee passed the bill 8 to 4, along strict party lines.
The incoming Democratic speaker Vinnie Prieto, born in Cuba, said the students who testified here reminded him of himself.
“They came around the same age as I did, they should be offered the same tuition my children have gotten,” said Preito.
Christie embraced tuition equality three weeks before his re-election. It’s believed that helped him win the Latino vote.
Some of the affected students want to hold him to that.
“This is the foundation upon which he got 51% of the vote. And now he’s trying to backtrack on it,” said Tello.
The Assembly has scheduled its floor vote on the Dream Act a week from today. Christie is expected to send it back to the legislature with some suggested changes.