Following up on the controversial Dream Act legislation signed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rutgers-Newark is hosting a college admissions fair for unauthorized immigrants this weekend.At Saturday’s first-of-its-kind event, referred to as “undocuRutgers,” prospective students who entered the country without legal permission have the chance to learn about the options for attending college that have been made available to them.
Children of immigrants living in the country illegally are able to pay in-state tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges as of 2013’s Dream Act. Christie announced his support for this legislation before winning his re-election bid that November.
After the election, he came out in opposition to a piece of the bill that would have allowed unauthorized immigrants access to the state’s financial aid. The bill passed without it, so these students are still not eligible for state or federal financial aid.
The Rutgers-Newark event on Saturday will cover that topic and more.
Peter T. Englot, a senior vice chancellor for public affairs and chief of staff in the chancellor’s office, explained the day’s two overarching goals:
“One is to provide information about the processes of applying for admission, financial aid and transfer — something we do frequently in many different venues for people from many different communities and backgrounds.
“The other is to engage undocumented students and their parents, in particular, in a conversation so that we in the higher education community can better understand the challenges they face in pursuing opportunity through education.”
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Because part of the focus of the day’s sessions is transferring from a two-year college to a four-year college, there will be representation from Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Union county colleges present.
Volunteers from the Rutgers School of Law – Newark Child Advocacy Clinic are also hosting a question-and-answer session to clarify federal policies related to these students.
Concern about these federal policies and the admissions fair’s perceived message led to a flurry of criticism in the comment section of NJ.com, the first outlet to publish a news article about the event Thursday.
Englot didn’t directly address the response to the event in a statement issued to NJBIZ. He did say that Rutgers’ motivation to host it “derives from our awareness of the growing presence of undocumented students in our region, underlined by recent studies.”
Englot pointed out that last year, New Jersey Policy Perspective estimated that there are 525,000 unauthorized residents in the Garden State. In addition, The Office of Refugee Resettlement of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report showing that New Jersey placed seventh among all states in acceptance of unauthorized minors for the first half of last year.
The in-state tuition rate that these youth have access to is $13,499 annually at Rutgers, before books and other ancillary costs. Out-of-state students pay $27,523 annually.
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