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September 30, 2013

New Jersey Considers In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students


Young undocumented immigrants in the United States face a number of hurdles when trying to attend college. Undocumented students are often not eligible for financial aid from the government and have to pay higher out-of-state tuition, even if they’ve lived in the state for most of their lives.

In New Jersey, a bill in the state legislature is proposing “tuition equity”, meaning that undocumented students would be allowed to pay in-state tuition, which is typically about half of out-of-state tuition. Fourteen states around the country have already passed similar laws, including Texas, New York, California and Colorado.

Cynthia Cruz’s parents brought her illegally from Mexico when she was one year old. The New Jersey resident says tuition equity would allow her to realize her potential in the only country she calls home. “It would mean a whole generation will be able to attend higher education. They’ll be making the step that their parents weren’t able to do, to afford school, to be able to have equal opportunities as everyone else.”

However, opponents say the plan is unfair to hardworking American citizens.

“Every one of our public institutions have no openings. They’re jam-packed,” says Robert Singer, a member of the New Jersey senate who opposes tuition equity. “So what am I doing for the New Jersey resident who is a citizen of the United States? Am I knocking them out? So some of my concerns are we’re really taking that slot away from a New Jersey student.”

Warm up questions
  1. What are the different ways that students and their families pay for college?
  2. Are students that do not have U.S. citizenship allowed to go to college in the United States?
  3. Does going to college and graduating give students an advantage in the job market? Why or why not?
Discussion questions
  1. How do residents of other countries afford to attend college in the U.S. if they are not able to apply for or receive U.S. financial aid loans?
  2. Do you think the U.S. will be better or worse off if we allow undocumented students to go to college? Why? Defend your answer.
  3. How would a student who is not a citizen go about trying to apply to college? Wouldn’t they be in danger of being deported if they gave out their personal information to colleges?
  4. Do you think the bill proposing “tuition equity” is a good idea? Why or why not?
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