New Jersey and Missouri Take Opposite Sides on Funding Illegal Alien College Students
By David Jaroslav | May 17, 2018
New Jersey and Missouri took dramatically different paths on the issue of illegal aliens seeking financial aid for college.
The Garden State already granted in-state tuition to illegal alien college students in 2013, but the legislature and new Governor Phil Murphy (D) decided this year that even that wasn’t enough. Previous Governor Chris Christie (R) had vetoed a past attempt to expand the law, but now with Senate Bill (S.) 699, they’ve made illegal aliens eligible for all forms of state financial aid. This places illegal aliens on a completely equal footing with U.S. citizens and legal residents. S. 699 adopts the same criteria for financial aid as the state had previously enacted to qualify for in-state tuition, as well as the same income standards citizens and legal residents have to show to prove “need.” Illegal aliens are eligible if they have:
- Attended a high school in New Jersey for three or more years;
- Graduated from high school or received a high school equivalency diploma in New Jersey;
- Enrolled at an institution of higher education in New Jersey during the Fall 2013 semester or later (meaning aid might be available retroactively);
- Filed an affidavit stating they’ve applied for legal immigration status or will do so if and when the law changes; and
- Filed income information on themselves and their parents demonstrating need.
The bill was introduced on January 9, and sponsored by the powerful combination of Senate Education Committee Chairwoman M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Bayonne/Jersey City), both of whom focused their rhetoric on the bill covering “DACA” recipients or “DREAMers,” even though it benefits all illegal aliens. The bill passed the Senate on March 26 by a vote of 27-10. It passed the Assembly on April 12, 49-24, with only one Democrat, Joseph Danielsen of Middlesex County, voting against.
When Governor Murphy signed the bill on May 9, he unsurprisingly took the opportunity to grandstand, saying “[t]uition equity and equal access to financial aid are moral standards.” In response, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) condemned the bill as “fundamentally wrong for our citizens and taxpayers.”
New Jersey colleges are already taking financial aid applications from illegal aliens, and the state’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority updated its website almost immediately.
Merely granting in-state tuition had, of course, left private colleges in the state unaffected, but now the taxpayers of New Jersey will be on the hook for financial aid even if an illegal alien wants to go to Princeton, which can cost upwards of $66,000 a year: although the school averages $49,502 in annual grants to its students, evidently the state will be picking up at least some of the difference. In its Fiscal Estimate for the bill, the state’s Office of Legislative Services indicated that the average state aid award in the 2017-2018 school year was approximately $7,451 and therefore “estimate[d] that an additional appropriation of $4.47 million would be necessary in order to provide [financial aid] to the newly-eligible students while maintaining the same average award amount.”
New Jersey is estimated to have the 9th highest overall tax burden for individuals in the country, and the single worst tax climate for business out of all 50 states. Its average annual economic growth between 2006 and 2016 was an abysmal 0.2% and in 2017 it was surpassed only by Illinois in out-migration by its residents to other states. Yet none of this seems to have phased the Garden State an iota.
By sharp contrast to New Jersey, the Show Me State of Missouri continues to make clear that illegal alien college students are not entitled to benefits at the expense of its taxpayers.
In this year’s Department of Higher Education budget, House Bill (HB) 2003, the Missouri legislature provided that illegal aliens who attend public colleges in Missouri must pay the same rate charged to international students, i.e., those who attend on student visas. The legislature has adopted budget language like this each year since 2014.
As both House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) and Vice-Chairman Justin Alferman (R- Hermann) pointed out, schools can still theoretically get around this by charging the same rate to everyone, but no school has chosen to do so. This is presumably because unlike illegal aliens, international students tend to be relatively wealthy and thus valuable sources of revenue for the schools.
The bill also provides that no scholarship funds, i.e., financial aid, “shall be expended on behalf of students with an unlawful immigration status in the United States.” This is a provision the legislature first included in its education budget in 2015 and has adopted again each year since.
While the bill was introduced in February, the House and Senate ultimately resolved all their differences and passed it in identical form on May 9: the House by a vote of 121-27 and the Senate by 24-7. However, the presiding officers of each chamber have been refraining from signing passed bills and sending them to Governor Eric Greitens until after the legislature is set to consider Greitens’ impeachment in a special session scheduled to start on May 18.
Undergraduate in-state tuition for the 2017-2018 school year at the University of Missouri’s flagship Columbia campus runs $282 per credit hour, while the out-of-state rate (also charged to international students and thus to illegal aliens) is $839.30, nearly three times as much.
Some of this has led to illegal aliens moving just across the state line to Kansas, which does grant in-state tuition. Some Kansas schools even grant in-state or comparably reduced tuition to residents of nearby Missouri counties. But that should serve only to encourage Kansas, and other states, to follow Missouri’s example, and turn off the financial incentives for illegal immigration.