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Christie eliminates student aid from New Jersey DREAM Act, signs

As we discussed on this blog a couple of weeks ago, Governor Chris Christie had long given an impression of support for the New Jersey DREAM Act. At a Latino Leadership Alliance event before the last election, for example, he had emphasized the importance of ensuring "tuition equality for everybody in New Jersey." Yet just as the bill was to be sent for his signature, Christie abruptly issued an about-face, complaining that while in-state tuition equality was OK, allowing access state financial aid programs for DREAMers would be too expensive.

Supporters in our neighboring state sharply criticized Christie for treating DREAMers -- unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children and who are Americans in every way but on paper -- as if they are less deserving of education access than their peers.

Some conservatives, however, accused him of “kowtowing to a liberal constituency,” according to USA TODAY. They warned Christie that signing the New Jersey DREAM Act could cost him the GOP nomination for the presidency.

After balancing the opposing viewpoints, Christie ultimately agreed to sign a watered-down version of the law. The compromise will allow New Jersey-resident DREAMers to take advantage of the in-state tuition rates their peers enjoy but won’t allow them to apply for state-sponsored financial aid programs.

As Christie said at that Latino Leadership Alliance event in October, every child in the U.S. deserves the chance to reach his or her full potential. Moreover, the U.S. needs our workforce to be educated. Many DREAMers are ready and willing to study science, technology, engineering and math -- the so-called “STEM” fields in which our nation’s employers say we need more graduates.

Approving DREAMers who are residents of New Jersey for in-state tuition is a step in the right direction. When many immigrant families will not be able to afford to pay even in-state tuition without access to financial aid, however, it’s still a far cry from “tuition equality.”

Source: NPR’s The Two-Way blog, “Gov. Christie Signs New Jersey 'DREAM Act' Into Law,” Scott Neuman, Dec. 20, 2013

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