More than 700 undocumented students received more than $3.8 million in college financial aid for the first year during which New Jersey made the aid available to those without legal status.
The figures, provided by the state Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, show that 749 students in total received the aid during both the fall and spring semesters of the 2018-19 school year. Most of the aid, more than $3.5 million, was awarded under the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant, or TAG, program.
Students at Rutgers University received the largest portion of the aid, with more than $1.3 million awarded to recipients attending that school. The next-largest portions were: $273,610 to students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; $271,671 to students at St. Peter’s University; and $206,850 to those at Montclair State University.
The aid figures differ from estimates made last year by the state Legislature, which said the program would cost about $5 million a year if an expected 600 eligible unauthorized immigrants applied for and were granted the financial aid.
Critics have said that any money available to help students pay for college should be awarded to U.S. citizens and others who are living in the country legally.
The application form for financial aid is used to determine awards not only for the New Jersey Tuition Aid Grant program but also for the NJ STARS and NJ STARS II scholarship programs. NJ STARS covers the cost of tuition at New Jersey community colleges for students who rank in the top 15 percent of their high school class at the end of their junior or senior year. The NJ STARS II program allows students, who participated in the Stars program, and who earn associate’s degrees with a grade-point average of 3.25 or higher, to apply for up to $2,500 per year in scholarship money for use at any New Jersey public or independent four-year college or university.
Undocumented students are also eligible for the state’s Equal Opportunity Fund, which provides financial assistance and support services to students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Undergraduate grants range from $200 to $2,500 annually.
Seventy-five EOF awards worth $47,487 were distributed, according to HESAA figures. Essex County College students received the largest portion, at $11,500, followed by students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who received $4,375.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in May 2018 that expanded the Tuition Equality Act, which had allowed undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at New Jersey public colleges and universities. The new law extended state financial aid to undocumented students in New Jersey who meet certain criteria.
The legislation does not place a cap on the number of applicants who can seek financial help.
Immigrants without legal status who are interested in applying for financial aid must have attended high school in New Jersey for three or more years and either graduated from a New Jersey high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in New Jersey. They must also have registered for selective service.
Applicants must submit affidavits stating that they will file an application to change their immigration status or will do so as soon as it is possible.
Recent high school graduates and anyone who is applying for financial aid for the first time and is interested in applying under the new law must complete the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application by Sept. 15 for the fall semester.