NJUS plans effort to secure equal tuition rate for all
Members work on bill to provide in-state tuition for undocumented students
Working to represent and educate all of the students in the state, the New Jersey United Students discussed a new initiative Saturday to give in-state tuition to undocumented citizens.
The organization, made up of delegates from N.J. colleges and universities, introduced a number of new initiatives including getting support for a bill that would make education more affordable for students living in the state without citizenship, said Spencer Klein, president of NJUS.
“We work to bring together student governments and organizations to work to improve student accessibility, security, privacy, funding and quality of life in New Jersey,” said Klein, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
The in-state tuition bill would allow undocumented students in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition charges provided they have completed three years of high school or attained a GED in New Jersey, said Javier Mena, a NJUS member.
Mena, a Rowan University senior, said the bill faces shaky opposition from some senators who are wary of the possibility of signing off on a bill similar to one introduced last year, which was tabled.
Klein said the effort to pass the bill would include getting support from not only New Jersey senators, but also from university presidents throughout the state.
He said no president has come out in support of the bill because it would reduce tuition revenue.
“The reason we obviously support this is [because of] the moral question, ‘Do you really deserve to profit off our clearly flawed immigration policies?’” Klein said.
The organization also proposed to create a campus advocate on NJUS member institutions’ campuses to represent students in cases of administrative punishment, Klein said.
The campus advocate would work in conjunction with non-profit lawyer groups to help defend students in cases where administrative action seems overwhelmingly stacked against them, said Akin Olla, an NJUS member.
“There hasn’t been a lot of advocacy for students in the country, let alone New Jersey,” Olla, a Rowan University senior said. “No one will fight for students but students.”
The organization’s Voter Registration Drive was also a topic of discussion, with the effort being hailed as a resounding success, said John Aspray, an NJUS staff member.
Around 6,300 students were registered because of the drive, which was also the first of its kind in New Jersey, said Aspray, a University alumnus.
Aspray said voters in the state faced problems when trying to make their voices heard, such as voter intimidation at the polls a nd being told they were not registered when they were.
Marios Athanasiou, parliamentarian for NJUS, said he witnessed voter disenfranchisement first-hand when he went to vote in North Brunswick.
“We were having to actually step in and say, ‘Can’t they get a provisional ballot?’ … it’s a shame because we know it’s happening in places we can’t be,” said Athanasiou, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Provisional ballots written on paper are easily misplaced, destroyed, or overlooked and might not even be counted, Aspray said.
In the case of New Brunswick, the question of whether or not the city’s Board of Education should be elected is 13 votes away from being passed, and provisional ballots were not tallied up at the time of the meeting, he said.
The drive was also instrumental in spreading awareness about the Building Our Future Bond Act that benefits higher education facilities in New Jersey, he said.
The act, which passed on Election Day with a margin of more than 25 percent, provides state grants totaling more than $750 million to universities, according to nj.com.
Klein said this money is especially important for research institutions like the University.
“This is really handy for Rutgers, a research university,” he said. “$300 million is set aside for research.”