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          Senators Ruiz, Pou, Cunningham, Sweeney Celebrate New Law

 TRENTONThe Senate sponsors of the New Jersey DREAM Act today hailed a new era of equality in the state for DREAMers, young people who are undocumented but were brought to this country as children, who will now have access to a higher education as a result of the new law.

Sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, Legislative Latino Caucus Chair Nellie Pou, Higher Education Chair Sandra Cunningham and Senate President Steve Sweeney, the law makes New Jersey the 17th state in the nation to provide college access to undocumented students by allowing them to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Under the provisions of the law (S-2479) students who attend a New Jersey high school for at least three years and graduate from a state high school, or attain the equivalent of a high school diploma, will become eligible for in-state tuition rates immediately. The governor held a ceremonial signing of the legislation today at Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City.

“This law marks a new era of equality in New Jersey for students who have long called this great state home. With this policy, we are changing the way our state treats young people who attend our schools and want nothing more than to receive the same opportunity to obtain a higher education as their peers,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “I am proud of the work we have done on this legislation. After nearly a decade of debate, New Jersey has finally moved beyond the policies of the past to ensure that if a New Jersey student makes the decision to attend college, they will be treated fairly and equitably. This is not only the right thing to do for our students, but it is the only way to ensure we build a strong workforce that is prepared to compete in a 21st Century economy.”

“These students are part of the fabric of New Jersey, and they are the future of our state. This law will allow them to live out their dreams of going to college, getting a good-paying job and contributing to the goal of creating a better New Jersey for their generation and for those to come,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic and Bergen). “This is a significant step forward in providing higher education access in New Jersey, which is key to making certain that all of our young people are given the chance to reach their potential and to make a positive impact in our state.”

“New Jersey’s greatest economic resources are the minds of our young students. Affording these young people an opportunity to attend college equal to that which is enjoyed by their peers is a way to ensure they become successful, dignified and productive members of our society,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Tuition equity will not only benefit dreamers and their families, but will also contribute to a stronger and more prosperous New Jersey for all of us.”

“Higher education is the best pathway to achieving the American Dream. The DREAM Act is aptly named,” said Senate President Sweeney.  “We have a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt. Higher education cannot continue to be a luxury.  College is an economic necessity and every family in New Jersey should be able to afford it.  Every family. This law will allow every child the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

In addition to New Jersey, 16 states have provisions allowing in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.  Fourteen states provide these rates through state legislation: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. Oklahoma and Rhode Island allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions.