Many of New Jersey’s undocumented immigrants would be eligible for in-state tuition rates and state aid for college under a bill advanced by the State Senate Budget Committee today. The measure has been dubbed the DREAM Act and advocates think the time is now for tuition equality.

State Committee vice chair Lizette Delgado-Polanco (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

“The argument posted by the pundits who say that we should not use public dollars to fund their (undocumented immigrants) education is beyond preposterous,” said Lizzette Delgado-Polanco, vice chair of the Democratic State Committee. “We funded these same kids from kindergarten through high school and then we have the gall to say that they are somehow different from the other boys and girls who they grew up with.”

Currently, 18 other states offer tuition equity of some kind to undocumented students; 15 do it through state legislation while three states offer more limited equity via educational governing bodies.

“It has been a long road – with a few more milestones yet to go – to have this bill signed into law, but we all know this: The more we invest in students, the better our state becomes,” said Giancarlo Tello, an undocumented student leader of the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition. “I look forward to the legislature putting the best possible bill on the governor’s desk, and to him standing by his stated commitment to equality and making the dream a reality.”

California, New Mexico and Texas also allow undocumented students to access state financial aid.

Opponents of the bill worry about the cost to taxpayers and are concerned that higher education opportunities could be taken away from legal New Jersey citizens.