Opposing Financial Aid for Undocumented Students is Short-Sighted

This appeared as a letter to the editor in the July 22, 2016 edition of the Bergen Record.

The Record’s editorial opposing extending student financial aid to undocumented New Jersey high school graduates was surprising and disappointing.

First, while it true that Gov. Christie conditionally vetoed this provision in 2013, that does not mean that the Legislature and advocates should accept his action or that he is incapable of changing his mind. NJPP is not in the business of supporting only public issues that are political slam dunks, such as joint resolutions to make Monarch butterflies the state butterfly – and the Record shouldn’t be either.

Second, children who accompany their undocumented parents to New Jersey do so without a choice. They are innocents. Fortunately, public schools are not permitted by federal law to check immigration status, so immigrant children are eligible for a P-12 education. We should then turn around and punish these children by denying them the chance to compete for state financial aid and have a fighting chance for a college education. Closing the most effective door to give these innocent neighbors the opportunity to be well-educated and make a contribution to their home state is short-sighted, harmful to New Jersey’s economic future and a waste of the significant taxpayer investment that has already been made in these striving students through public education

Just because federal law and regulation denies them access to Pell Grants and federal loans is no reason that New Jersey should do the same. Eight other states have approved financial aid for their undocumented high school graduates. Why not New Jersey?