On December 20, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) signed into law S. 2479, the DREAM Act, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-NJ), along with more than 30 other sponsors and co-sponsors. The new law allows undocumented student immigrants who have attended at least three years of high school in the state to qualify for in-state tuition at public institutions of higher education. However, key to the governor’s decision to approve the bill was a compromise with the legislature that dropped a provision allowing undocumented students to also be eligible for state financial aid if they qualified under income guidelines. To read the governor’s veto message regarding the financial aid provision, click here.
On January 13, Gov. Christie vetoed S. 2965. The bill was sponsored by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-NJ), along with 16 other sponsors and co-sponsors. The bill would have established a College Affordability Study Commission for the purpose of examining issues and developing recommendations to increase the affordability of higher education in New Jersey. The commission would have consisted of 10 members, including the Secretary of Higher Education, or a designee, the Executive Director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, or a designee, and eight members appointed by the governor.
Under the vetoed legislation, the College Affordability Study Commission was tasked with studying issues related to increasing the affordability of higher education in the state including (this list is not exhaustive):
- The creation of an Accelerated Degree Pilot Program, which would offer high-performing high school students interested in pursuing a medical degree or graduate-level science or engineering degree the opportunity of receiving that degree earlier than would be possible under a traditional program;
- The creation of an Affordable Degree Pilot Program, which would permit students to earn a baccalaureate degree at a discounted tuition rate through a degree program partnership between a county college and a four-year public institution of higher education, with the student completing the first two years of the program at the participating county college;
- The creation of a Pay It Forward Pilot Program, which would replace the current system of charging students tuition and fees for enrollment at public institutions of higher education and allow students to instead pay back a percentage of their income for a certain number of years; and
- Any other proposals that the commission believes would increase the affordability of higher education in the state.
Pres. Sweeney released the following statement regarding the governor’s veto of the bill: “I cannot express how disappointed I am in the governor's veto. We are facing a college affordability crisis here in New Jersey. The answers won't just present themselves. We have to act. As we begin the new session, I fully plan, along with my colleague Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, on reintroducing the bill. New Jersey's middle class families and the working poor can't afford, literally and figuratively, for us to sit idly by and do nothing.” To read the governor’s full veto message, click here.