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Murphy Administration Announces That 513 Dreamers Were Granted State Financial Aid
2/13/2019 | NJ Dreamers

Murphy Administration Announces That 513 Dreamers Were Granted State Financial Aid

The Grants Will Allow Students to Pursue Postsecondary Education and Contribute to New Jersey's Economy

TRENTON – The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) today announced that, due to Governor Phil Murphy's May 2018 education expansion, 513 New Jersey Dreamers were granted state financial aid for the 2018-2019 academic year. The education expansion allows for undocumented students who came to New Jersey as children to apply for and potentially receive state financial aid, provided they meet certain criteria.

"A total of 513 students who previously faced financial obstacles were able to enroll in college in New Jersey and receive state-funded financial aid in the fall of 2018. This financial assistance offers these New Jersey students a life-changing opportunity," said David J. Socolow, HESAA's Executive Director. "The successes of these first 513 students, who are now attending county colleges, state colleges and universities, and independent institutions around the state, will have a positive impact on countless additional lives."

"Ensuring all of our state's residents have the opportunity to access higher education is key to economic success," said Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary of Higher Education. "All of our residents who have benefited from a New Jersey high school education, are working toward citizenship, and come from families who have contributed to our economy deserve equal opportunities to go to college here in New Jersey.  I'm pleased this expansion of eligibility is already working to aid people who will contribute to our state's prosperity for years to come."

Many of these families now qualify for the state's signature need-based financial aid program, the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG), because they can show proof of verifiable income. In addition, students who received the financial aid expansion must have met the following criteria to qualify as "New Jersey Dreamers":

  • Attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years;
  • Earned either a New Jersey high school diploma or a New Jersey equivalency exam certificate;
  • Reside in New Jersey;
  • Be certified as attending or enrolled at an eligible New Jersey institution of higher education.

Additionally, New Jersey Dreamers who receive financial aid must sign an affidavit that they will apply to regularize their immigration status once they are able to do so. As required by state law for all applicants for financial aid who are male and are between the ages of 18 and 25, male New Jersey Dreamers must also register with the Selective Service.

When Governor Murphy signed the law making state-funded student financial assistance available for New Jersey Dreamers on May 9, 2018, New Jersey became the tenth state to provide aid to undocumented students and the first to implement the law within the same year. Concurrently with the announcement, the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application went live on HESAA's website. HESAA—which is the state agency responsible for overseeing financial aid programs— proactively worked with community members to promote enrollment. Within days of the signing, HESAA hosted a webinar series for secondary school counselors and college and university financial aid administrators to explain the details of the program, at which HESAA reviewed topics including eligibility, school certification, and how to navigate the new Dreamer-specific state application form. By the fall of 2018, more than 950 secondary school counselors had attended HESAA's in-person training. HESAA also partnered with various community-based organizations to help build awareness through publications, workshops, and social media.

In all, HESAA received 1,209 completed applications. The 513 New Jersey Dreamers who received grants in Fall 2018 (which totaled $1.625 million in state aid) met all eligibility criteria and had applications that were submitted within the filing deadline. Students who did not file completely or by the deadline may still be eligible for the Spring 2019 semester. The program is expected to grow in subsequent years.