New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is backing away from his campaign pledge to support in-state college tuition for undocumented students – despite publicly stating his change of heart on the issue last month before the gubernatorial election.
Christie said on his monthly call-in show Monday that he would not sign the Tuition Equality Act, New Jersey’s version of the Dream Act. “They’re overreaching and making it unsignable and making the benefits richer than the federal program, the federal Dream Act, that’s simply not acceptable for me.”
Christie, who had previously opposed allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition prices, said last month during a speech to a Latino group that the New Jersey Legislature needed to ensure “tuition equality for everybody.” Christie reiterated his stance days later during a debate against challenger Barbara Buono, during which he said he supported the New Jersey’s Tuition Equality Act–a bill that had been debated and stalled in the state for years.
Under the Tuition Equality Act, undocumented students who have attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years would qualify for in-state tuition rates at any of the state’s public colleges. The legislation also requires that students first earn a diploma or GED from their high school and sign an affidavit to adjust their immigration status if given the opportunity. Currently, 16 states allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.
The New Jersey Senate approved the bill earlier this month, and Assembly leaders say they expect to put a version of the legislation, which covers in-state tuition but not financial aid, up for a vote soon. But Christie says he wants changes to the bill before he signs it–changes that likely won’t come before the deadline. “They have time to change that between now and Jan 14. If they do, I will, if they don’t, I won’t.”
New Jersey Senate president Steve Sweeney accused Christie in a statement of attempting to appease a national audience and gain more minority votes during the gubernatorial election (Christie won re-election earlier this month with 51% of the Hispanic vote). “He once again turns his back on those who need us most… When he was running for governor he supported it now that he is running for President he does not,” Sweeney said.