AFTNJ leaders and locals are speaking out in support of state legislation to allow in-state tuition at state  colleges and universities  for undocumented foreign-born  youth who graduate from  New Jersey high schools. The proposals introduced in Trenton mirror some elements of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act proposed at the Federal level.

AFTNJ Secretary and URA-AFT President Lucye Millerand spoke at the kickoff rally for the coalition advocating for Tuition Equity. The January rally in front of the Statehouse in Trenton featured high school and college students from Venezuela, Korea, Ecuador, Mexico, the Philippines, Guatemala and Colombia who “came out ” as undocumented.

Andrea R.‘s mom brought her to Perth Amboy from Venezuela when she was eight. She pays out-of-state rates at a community college and is uncertain whether she will be able to afford to go to on to study at a university. She said she wants to make her mom proud and continue her studies, but “opportunities are really limited when you cannot afford education.”

The students impacted by this legislation all came to New Jersey with their families as children and graduated from high schools throughout the state. They are treated as out-of-state residents, thus doubling their tuition costs. The bill (A-1659/S-2355) would give in-state tuition to any New Jersey student who attended high school in the state for at least three years and who promises to seek appropriate immigration status as soon as possible

“We, as a union have always stood for access to education,” said Millerand. “Public education in this nation is one of the ways that immigrants have risen up from humble beginnings to take leadership in our society.”

Cynthia reported that she came to New Brunswick as a baby. She never knew her immigration status until she found out she did not qualify for a scholarship to a private high school because she lacked documentation.

Andrea L.  came with her family from Ecuador, but was refused in-state tuition at The College of New Jersey, despite documentation confirming that she attended 12 years of public school in New Jersey and her family paid taxes. “No GPA, no class ranking took away the fact that I didn’t have a social security number, said Andrea L. “We have to change this.”

Currently, each college or university has its own policy guiding payment of in-state tuition.

“The statue of liberty stands closer to New Jersey than New York,” said Tony, who immigrated to New Jersey from Korea. “She beckons immigrants as a beacon of hope to its harbor.” He pointed out that many other states including New York, California and Texas have tuition equity, but New Jersey has lagged behind.

Carlos made it through Kean University by taking positions in student government and working on campus, but wants to see future generations of New Jersey high school graduates without the additional burden and extra expense. “We are not asking for any special preferences and privileges—just to be treated equally and have a fair shot at the American dream,” he said.

AFT’s College Council endorsed the legislation, as did The College of New Jersey Federation, Montclair State University Adjuncts, the Perth Amboy Federation and Rutgers AAUP-AFT. Allies from labor in New Jersey AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America-New Jersey, 
New Jersey Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association and
SEIU have also endorsed.

Videos of Millerand addressing the rally and personal stories from the undocumented students are on the AFTNJ youtube channel. For more on the Tuition Equity campaign, see


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