Virginia governor signs law that expands eligibility for state financial aid

In what he called a move that will make the commonwealth more welcoming and inclusive, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill extending financial aid benefits to students who came to the country illegally and who are eligible for in-state tuition.

“They are Virginians, in every sense of the word, except for the immigration status,” Northam said before signing the bill at Marymount University in Arlington on Monday.

The new law makes Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. It takes effect August 2022.

Northam thanked educators at Marymount University and other proponents across the state for the legislation that extends an existing law Northam signed last year, which makes these Virginia students eligible for in-state tuition.

“Earning a college degree means higher wages, and often better benefits, leading to a greater quality of life for the student, yes, but also for their family. It also means more workers with degrees, who can fill job vacancies in our state, and support our economy,” Northam said.

The law enables students, who entered the country illegally when they were children, to receive financial assistance through Virginia’s Tuition Assistance Grant program. This would increase access to higher education and open the door for more students to achieve their goals and aspirations, Marymount University said in a release.

“This legislation will prove how Virginia is leading the way in the nation in helping students realize their dreams of access to postsecondary education by providing Tuition Assistance Grants to students attending Virginia’s independent colleges or state-supported financial aid if they’re attending a public institution,” explained Dr. Irma Becerra, Marymount University president. “Without this support, many of these bright young men and women wouldn’t have affordable access to college programs.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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