Bill to lower college tuitions for H-1B children advances in New Jersey
Beleaguered H-1B visa-holders, mostly from India and who have been under intense scrutiny and public pressure, caught a rare break later last week when New Jersey state legislature moved forward a measure to lower college costs for their children.
The legislation seeking to grant in-state tuition fee to children of H-1B workers in New Jersey colleges cleared the state’s senate higher education committee on Thursday. It must now pass the full senate, then a committee of the state’s general assembly and the then full chamber, before it lands on the governor’s desk for his signature.
New Jersey is home to Princeton University, one of the top US institutions, and others such as Rutgers. While the in-state (for residents of the state) and out-of-state (those from other states) costs are the same for Princeton — $50,340 in annual tuition and fees; the difference is almost the double for Rutgers, Camden — $14,835 for in-state and $30,013 for out-of-state students.
“These students live in New Jersey and graduate from high school in New Jersey, but because of the specific kind of job their parent holds, they’re forced to pay extreme tuition costs. That doesn’t make any sense, and goes against our commitment to keep our students in our state throughout their studies,” said Senator Vin Gopal, an Indian American Democrat who sponsored the legislation, which is being called the Gopal Bill.
“This bill gives these students the opportunity to receive an affordable higher education in New Jersey, which allows them to stay close to family and the communities they know while strengthening their ability to find work in-state after graduating.”
Certain conditions will apply: students must have attended high school in New Jersey for three or more years, or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in the state.
The bill enjoys bipartisan support and the chances of it going through were “more likely than not”, said a New Jersey senate staff member.
It could not be immediately ascertained if this will become, on enactment, the first such law allowing H-1B children to claim in-state tuition privileges in the United States.
New Jersey state hosts a large number of Indians on H-1B visas, which are granted to allow American employers to hire highly skilled foreigners. Cognizant, Wipro, Ernst & Young, Larsen & Toubro and Mindtree, which are among the leading recipient companies of H-1Bs, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, are headquartered in New Jersey.
The H-1B visa programme has come under intense pressure from the Trump administration, which has stepped up scrutiny of visa applications with the stated aim of reducing fraud and abuse of the system to favour workers hired from abroad over locals. Authorities ask for more information to clear new and renewal petitions and grant shorter extensions, which makes the process tedious and expensive. The administration has also decided to terminate an Obama-era programme to grant work authorization to spouses of H-1B visa holders who are waiting for their Green Cards.
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