TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to sign a bill lowering college tuition costs for students in the United States illegally, after the state Assembly agreed Thursday to drop financial aid eligibility from the proposal.
Christie had said we would sign the bill and make it effective immediately if the Legislature agreed to the change.
The Senate signaled its intent to go along almost immediately, but the Assembly waited till nightfall to pass the revised bill, sending it to the governor's desk.
The bill extends the cheaper in-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities to students brought to this country illegally as children.
At least a dozen states have similar laws, including Texas and California, the two states with larger foreign-born populations than New Jersey.
Under the compromise, these students will not be eligible for financial aid, even if they qualify economically.
Foreign-born students who are not citizens currently pay the more expensive out-of-state rate to attend state colleges and universities, even if they live here.
Christie objected to those students being eligible for financial aid because of the additional cost to the state, and over fears that New Jersey could become a magnet for foreign-born students living in other states.
The issue had become a distraction for Christie, who is the governor of a Democratic-leaning state that supports the measure and a possible Republican presidential candidate who would have to deal with primary voters who oppose it.
The governor said during his re-election campaign he supported the concept of tuition equality, but he later said he would not sign a bill containing the financial aid provision.
His position was viewed by some as pandering to Hispanic voters before the election. He won re-election by 22 points in November, garnering 50 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Student advocate Giancarlo Tello, a Rutgers University student who was born in Peru and has been in the U.S. illegally since he was 6, said proponents accepted the compromise "grudgingly."
"We won't forget that he doesn't think our community is worthy of true equality," said Tello, who has suspended his studies because of costs. "And, we will continue to push for it."
Christie said he feels sorry for anyone who is still complaining rather than celebrating the agreement.
Because both the Assembly and Senate were in session Thursday, Christie's changes could be acted on immediately.
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Original headline: NJ governor set to sign tuition aid bill
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