New Jersey State Sen. Vin Gopal’s bill brings hope to H1-B parents of college students

New Jersey State Sen. Vin Gopal

H-1B visa-holders from India living in New Jersey who have long been forced to pay exorbitant college tuition for their children at public colleges because they are not permanent residents of U.S., had a sigh of relief last week thanks to efforts of state senator Vin Gopal (D. 11th District).

Gopal sponsored a legislation that would allow dependent students whose parents or guardians hold an H1-B visa to qualify for in-state tuition. The bill cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee June 6.

The bill, S-2555, would exempt such students from paying out-of-State tuition at public institutions of higher education if they meet certain criteria outlined in the bill like the students compulsorily attending high school in New Jersey for three or more years, or having received the equivalent of a high school diploma in the state.

The measure has to now pass the full senate, then a committee of the state’s general assembly and the then full chamber, before the governor’s signs the bill into a law.

“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,” Senator Gopal said in press statement.

“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,” Gopal said.

Gopal’s legislative district includes the Monmouth County municipalities of Allenhurst, Asbury Park, Colts Neck, Deal, Eatontown, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Interlaken, Loch Arbour, Long Branch, Neptune City, Neptune, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough, Shrewsbury Township, Tinton Falls and West Long Branch.

New Jersey is home to Princeton University, one of the top U.S. institutions, and others such as Rutgers, Montclair, William Paterson and Kean, among others. 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, according to news reports.

The high cost of college education puts parents of H1B children in a quandary because as non-citizens and non-permanent residents they are not eligible for federal government student loans that are offered at lower interest rates forcing them to pay out of state turion rates that are prohibitive.

New Jersey hosts a large number of Indians on H-1B visas and many work in companies like Cognizant, Wipro, headquartered in New Jersey. The majority of the Indian-owned companies in New Jersey are in the IT and telecom sector.

According to an earlier report Indian companies created more jobs in New Jersey than in any other state in America, investing a billion dollars into the Garden State.

According to news reports, Gopal’s bill enjoys bipartisan support and the chances of it going through were “more likely than not”, a New Jersey senate staff member was quoted as saying in news reports.

One of the strong points of New Jersey is its huge talent pool, including that of Indian workers which makes the state an ideal destination for many industries, including the pharmaceutical industry that counts many Indian companies from India who have set up shop in NJ.

“One of the major reasons why these Indian and other companies prefer to stay put in NJ in preference to other states is the availability of talent pool and trained workforce here and we need to capitalize on that,” Kerala-born Wesley Mathews, Director of the newly-created Office of International Trade and Investment under the NJ Economic Development Authority, told this correspondent in an interview last September.

It could not be ascertained last week if Gopal’s bill passes the legislature, it will become first such law allowing H-1B children to claim in-state tuition privileges in the United States.

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