July 23, 2019 | 73° F

EDITORIAL: Financial aid for DREAMers is fair

Newly proposed bill can benefit Rutgers


On December 20, 2013, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) signed into law the Tuition Equality Act, a bill that allowed for thousands of undocumented students to pay in-state tuition to attend public colleges and universities in New Jersey — but now the next step toward educational equity is being taken. Having already passed through the state Senate and Assembly, a bill to offer financial aid to DREAMers now sits on the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.). As early as the Fall 2018 semester, students who lack citizenship but meet the necessary requirements will be able to apply for and participate in all student financial aid programs. Potential undocumented recipients must meet the requirements for the Tuition Equality Act, which for example, include the student having attended high school for three or more years, graduated high school or received a GED and filed an affidavit with the college or university stating that they have (or soon will) filed an application to validate their legal status.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) itself is a piece of legislation that is hard to object to. Something all people have in common, documented or not, is that none of us asked to be born where we were. Additionally, as young children we did not have the autonomy to make decisions on matters that would affect us for the rest of our lives, like moving out of the country you were born in. For those simple reasons, DACA is intrinsically fair. But when one adds potentially subsidized education into the mix, the issue becomes much more problematic for some. 

While undocumented immigrants are more likely to be in poverty, there are clearly many documented families that also struggle financially and could benefit from financial aid. 

One point that may be conveyed by citizens who are struggling financially is the question of why they should have to pay for non-citizens, who may very well be their children’s competition, to go to school? This is a valid worry, but the fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants pay taxes too. They obviously pay sales taxes when they purchase goods, they pay property taxes either directly or indirectly through a landlord and many even pay state income taxes. Additionally, this program would end up costing New Jersey taxpayers only 17 cents per year. But in the end, this more about equal opportunity for DREAMers than how much their parents pay in taxes. 

Another worry associated with this bill may be the idea that more undocumented immigrants might be drawn to our state seeking to take advantage of this new opportunity. In turn, it could be said, there would be even more competition in terms of applicants and financial aid recipients, and some would be pushed to the wayside. But the fact of that matter is that there is seemingly no such record of this drawing-in occurring, so it is a needless worry. 

From the standpoint of Rutgers as an entity, by broadening the applicant pool we can continue to build on the prestige of our school. The University is eager for more students who are academically excellent and have a unique perspective to offer the community. So the fact that this bill will increase the size of our possible applicant pool means that we may be able to incrementally increase our university’s overall standard of academic excellence.

Undocumented students who show a yearning and an intellectual ability to attend an institution of higher education, but cannot afford to do so, should undoubtedly be offered the same chance for financial aid as their peers — the ones they graduated high school with. There are times when we, as a society, must step away from our blinding self-interest and embrace compassion and this is one of those times. For DREAMers, the United States is just as much their home as it is the home of any citizen — allow them to chase their dreams. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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