TRENTON, New Jersey — New Jersey's Assembly speaker is introducing a bill that would make students in the U.S. illegally eligible for college tuition aid from the state government, trying for a third time to put into a law a concept already rejected twice by Gov. Chris Christie.
Students who call themselves "American Dreamers" say that New Jersey helped their situation last year by allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities, but that college remains unaffordable to many of them as long as they are barred from participating in state-run financial aid programs.
"Full equality is not when we both get to pay $10,000, but you get $5,000 in aid when we both pay the same taxes," said Gianocarlo Tello, a 24-year-old Belleville resident who plans to start at Rutgers-Newark in the fall.
Christie has twice blocked allowing students like Tello access to financial aid.
Last year, Christie objected to the provision when it was part of the legislation to allow in-state tuition. He argued that it would be costly and that it could make New Jersey a magnet for students in the country illegally but currently living in other states. Lawmakers agreed to drop that measure in exchange for allowing the students to pay in-state tuition rates.
But they tried again last week when they adopted a state budget that included making the students eligible for state tuition assistance grants. The governor used his line-item veto to take that out on Monday.
Since then, Christie has been touting his decision to veto tax hikes that lawmakers were calling for. And key lawmakers are trying to call attention to other items Christie cut from the budget.
Prieto said that neither the measure that Christie vetoed nor the one that the lawmaker is introducing call for additional spending. Instead, he said, it would let eligible students in the country illegally apply for aid under the same rules as others.
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