New Jersey Has No Idea How Much Their New Law Granting Financial Aid to Illegal Immigrant Students Will Cost
New Jersey just passed a law making college financial aid available to illegal immigrant students. The Garden State is the 10th to do so.
But how much is it gonna cost? No one knows.
The law makes unauthorized immigrants eligible for the same state-funded college financial aid programs available to other New Jersey college students — including the Tuition Aid Grant program considered one of the most generous in the nation.
How much will this cost New Jersey taxpayers?
Early estimates say the program will cost the state about $5 million in its first year.
But, even supporters of the new law say the potential final bill of new financial aid program for unauthorized immigrants is unclear. State officials are unsure exactly how many New Jersey college students are living in the country illegally or how many might apply for state financial aid.
“We don’t really have an estimate,” said Jennifer Azzarano, a spokeswoman for the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, the state agency that administers college financial aid programs.
Students have until September to apply for financial aid for the fall semester and it remains to be seen how many of “New Jersey’s Dreamers” will be eligible for state grants and scholarships, Azzarano said.
Unauthorized immigrants are still barred from applying for federal financial aid, including Pell Grants and federal student loan programs.
Some lawmakers at Wednesday’s celebratory bill signing at Rutgers-Newark estimated the cost of opening up state financial aid programs to unauthorized immigrants will be relatively small.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), one of the sponsors of the legislation, estimated about 600 unauthorized immigrants will join the more than 66,000 students currently receiving financial aid through the state’s TAG program for low-income students.
“The total cost to the state of New Jersey for these Dreamers as part of the TAG program — about $5 million. Ladies and Gentlemen, for each taxpayer in this state that will cost 17 cents,” Schaer said.
However, those estimates are based on an analysis using 2015 data gathered by the state’s Office of Legislative Services. Their researchers said it would be impossible to determine exactly how many unauthorized immigrants would apply for and qualify for state financial aid under the new law.
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