Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Youth Organizations Issue Statement Calling on Gov. Christie to Keep his Promise to Support Tuitiion Equity

YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS CALL ON GOVERNOR CHRISTIE TO FULFILL DREAM ACT CAMPAIGN PROMISE Youth Demand Equality & Economic Opportunity (Trenton, New Jersey) As a result of Governor Christie's public support of the NJ DREAM Act during his campaign, he won a second term with 51% of the Latino vote. However, before the bill is even on his desk, the governor backpedaled on his campaign promise, stating, “They’re overreaching and making it unsignable and making the benefits richer than the federal program, the federal Dream Act, that’s simply not acceptable for me.” The governor’s comments are erroneous and suspect, given that the federal Dream Act is about a path to citizenship for college-eligible youth and service men and women in the armed forces, while the NJ Tuition Equity Bill, (also known as the NJ DREAM Act), is about ensuring that all taxpaying NJ residents are charged in-state tuition and have access to state aid. A NJ DREAM Act with access to state aid for undocumented immigrants is the best policy for all NJ residents and will strengthen NJ’s economy. To be eligible for state aid, undocumented students would be required to submit proof of residency and tax payments. Denying tax-paying NJ residents access to the state aid their taxes help to fund, solely on account of their immigrant status, is discriminatory. The NJ DREAM Act will ensure all taxpaying NJ residents have access to education. Full access to higher education for all NJ residents will cultivate a highly educated workforce that will attract and keep business in the state. As tuition becomes more affordable, families can use their tuition savings to meet other needs, circulating this money back into the economy. In addition, tuition equity and access to state aid for all NJ’s residents would lead to an increase in county college tuition revenue, as undocumented students would be able to attend such institutions. Strengthening New Jersey’s county colleges strengthens the state economy.[1] Workers with a BA earn significantly more per year than those with just a high school diploma & pay more of their earnings in taxes. Some of these students will eventually become entrepreneurs who will create jobs for others. The National Small Business Association points out that one in five new business owners in New Jersey is foreign-born. NJ can’t afford to discriminate against its students and future business owners. Contrary to critics’ concerns, a NJ DREAM Act with access to state aid for undocumented immigrants does not conflict with federal law, does not negatively impact the availability of funding for NJ’s low-income students, nor does it significantly affect the state’s budget. Federal law guarantees access to public education for all children, regardless of immigrant status, from Kindergarten to 12th grade. While federal law has not made federal aid available to undocumented students, states may and have passed laws to provide legal benefits to undocumented immigrants.[2] Specifically, California, New Mexico and Texas already provide undocumented students with access to state aid.[3] For almost all NJ families, college tuition means financial hardship. For undocumented families, whose average earnings are about 40 percent less than the earnings of authorized immigrants or citizens, the burden is even heavier. Only those students whose families have filed their income tax returns will be eligible to even apply for state aid. We must fund education sufficiently so that all who are qualified may complete their education, not deny the opportunity to undocumented immigrant students[4]. The NJ DREAM Act would increase the number of recipients of state aid by less than five percent.[5] In Massachusetts for example, after 7 months of providing instate tuition for undocumented students, less than 50 undocumented students had enrolled.[6] Texas recorded the largest student influx, with just over 8,000 students, but even there, undocumented students only account for seven-tenths of one percent of the total student population[7]. Most importantly, tuition equity with access to state aid is not a freebie. Like all New Jersey residents, undocumented immigrants pay property tax, either as homeowners or indirectly as renters. Undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes and many have payroll taxes deducted from their weekly earnings. In 2006 over 100,000 individual filers living in New Jersey used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (available from the IRS for those without Social Security Numbers) to pay these taxes. Governor Christie has no reason to oppose the NJ DREAM Act with access to state aid and every reason to support it. The NJ Tuition Equity for DREAMers Coalition urges the assembly to join the state senate in passing this bill. Christie should fulfill his campaign promise to support this bill. [1] http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/public/pdf/rd/winning_the_skills_race_summary.pdf [2] section 505 of the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Reconciliation Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) prohibits states from providing any higher education benefit based on residence to undocumented immigrants unless they provide the same benefit to U.S. citizens in the same circumstances, regardless of their residence. [3] http://www.njpp.org/assets/reports/NJPPTuitionEquityNovember2013.pdf [4] http://www.nilc.org/basic-facts-instate.html [5] http://www.njpp.org/assets/reports/budget-fiscal/2-rpt_tuition.pdfhttp://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/public/pdf/rd/winning_the_skills_race_summary.pdf [6] http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_23472207/tuition-opportunity-lost [7] See “AssemblyAppropriations Committee Statement to Assembly Committee Substitute For NJA-2633,” 210th Legislature. December 11, 2003.


Post a Comment

<< Home