Lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday that would help New Jersey residents who are in the U.S. illegally pay for college, setting up a potential showdown with the governor, who has said he would not sign the current proposal, since it is too broad.
The bill would extend the cheaper in-state tuition rate to students brought to the U.S. illegally as children who graduated from a New Jersey high school and are accepted to a state college or university. Currently, they pay the more expensive out-of-state tuition rate.
An Assembly committee sent the bill advanced to the full chamber for a floor vote. It already has passed the Senate and could reach Gov. Chris Christie’s desk before the end of the year.
At least a dozen other states have similar laws, including Texas and California, two states with the largest foreign-born population. New Jersey ranks third in the percentage of foreign-born residents.
Christie has expressed support for the concept of extending in-state tuition to qualifying illegals. But after winning 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in his re-election last month, he balked at some provisions in the bill and last month said he would not sign it unless changes were made.
Christie, considered a strong contender for a presidential run in 2016, objects to a portion of the bill giving illegals access to financial aid, and a loophole that would grant in-state tuition to students in the country illegally if they graduate from a private boarding school in New Jersey but live in another state.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Christie would get the bill as is. Sweeney and some Hispanic leaders blamed Christie for flip-flopping on the bill. They said he raised no objections while courting the Hispanic vote during his re-election campaign.