For the first time in nearly a decade, illegal immigrants will be allowed to take classes at the County College of Morris in a policy change that is drawing praise from some education officials and sharp criticism from immigration policy activists.
The trustees at the Randolph-based college voted 7-1 earlier this week to reverse a rule barring undocumented students, school officials said. Starting this summer, the public two-year college will be one of the first schools in New Jersey to openly acknowledge it is enrolling illegal immigrants and allowing them to pay the same tuition rate as other county residents.
The policy barring illegal immigrants was enacted in 2002 in response to security concerns following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. CCM’s reversal surprised many higher education officials and immigration activists who said the 8,800-student school was one of the only state colleges to actively bar illegal immigrants.
Most of New Jersey’s two- and four-year colleges have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to admitting illegal immigrants. Applicants are not asked for Social Security numbers when they apply, so the colleges do not know if they are in the country illegally.
However, public colleges usually require illegal students to pay out-of-state tuition rates if they can’t prove they live in New Jersey legally. Undocumented students are also not eligible for state or federal financial aid.
CCM will be one of the first schools in the state to establish a clear set of rules for enrolling illegal students. Under the new policy, only students who are 35 or younger and graduated from a U.S. high school are eligible. Students must also prove they entered the U.S. before age 16 and lived in the country at least five consecutive years.
The illegal immigrant students will be charged Morris’ in-county tuition rates–$115 a credit or about $3,450 a year, plus fees, for a full-time student. “They can’t get federal or state financial aid,” Yaw said.