When New Jersey’s governor signed a law in May giving undocumented immigrant students access to state financial aid for college, Gloria Rodriguez was prepared. The 22-year-old Orange resident had been working toward this moment for nearly a decade — about the same time it had taken the law’s supporters to get the bill passed.
Years of motivated, diligent schoolwork had enabled her to graduate as the valedictorian of her class at West Caldwell Tech High School in 2016. But without access to state or federal aid at the time, Gloria could only afford to attend a community college. It “was my only plan,” she said.
She attended Newark’s Essex Community College and applied last spring to continue her studies at several four-year universities. But once again, although accepted to several, she had little hope of attending, given her family’s finances. Her father, who migrated from Puebla, Mexico 18 years ago, supported Gloria, her mother and four siblings as a landscaper, earning roughly $30,000 a year.