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10th State Offers 'Dreamers' College Financial Aid

FILE - Daisy Leon, 26, right, of Perth Amboy, N.J., and a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, attends a rally at the White House in Washington, Aug. 15, 2017, along with others in favor of DACA and immigration reform.

The state of New Jersey has awarded $1.63 million in financial aid for higher education to more than 500 undocumented students, new government data showed Wednesday.

New Jersey's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) reported that 513 students received the aid to cover university and college expenses starting with the 2018 fall semester.

"This financial assistance offers these New Jersey students a life-changing opportunity," David J. Socolow, HESAA's executive director, said in a statement.

"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."

To be eligible for the financial assistance, students must have attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years and graduated from one, or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in the state. They must also file an affidavit stating that they have filed or will file an application to legalize their immigration status.

Male applicants are also required to register for selective service.

FILE - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks in Oceanport, N.J., June 14, 2018.
FILE - New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks in Oceanport, N.J., June 14, 2018.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the controversial measure into law last May, making New Jersey the 10th state to provide state aid to undocumented college hopefuls. The students are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. DACA allows immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children without proper immigration papers to stay in the country legally and work or attend school.

Though DACA recipients are protected from deportation and can enroll in U.S. colleges and universities, they are not eligible for federal financial assistance. States, however, can issue financial aid.

Opponents of the law have argued that state funds should go to U.S. citizens struggling to fund their college educations.

Some 1,500 New Jersey "Dreamers" applied for education assistance last summer, and 655 were approved for state aid. Of those, 513 students enrolled in New Jersey colleges and received their grants, according to data released by HESAA.

Students seeking financial assistance are required to apply through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). New Jersey Dreamers file a separate application that does not require a Social Security number, but proof of income.

Some of the applications were rejected because students made too much money to qualify for Tuition Aid Grants — the program that accounts for the overwhelming majority of the financial aid.