(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Thursday he would sign a bill passed by the state legislature that would allow illegal immigrant students living in the state to pay lower, in-state college tuition.

The move would make New Jersey the 16th U. S. state to allow students without legal immigration status to pay in-state rates, and comes after lengthy political wrangling between the Republican governor and Democrats in the state legislature.

"The most important thing is for these young men and women of our state, who we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their K-12 education, we're now going to give them an opportunity in an affordable way to be able to continue their education," Christie said in Trenton.

"This will be once again an example of New Jersey showing how you can come to bipartisan agreement," said Christie, who is widely expected to seek the Republican nomination for the White House in 2016.

"Not that we agree on everything, but that we find a way of bringing people together and come to a position that will benefit all the people of this state," he said.

The tuition bill applies to students who have attended at least three years of high school in New Jersey.

Christie vetoed a previous version of the bill that would have allowed some illegal immigrant students to qualify for financial aid, the New York Times reported.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, 15 U. S. states have laws permitting some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition if they have attended and graduated from primary or secondary schools there.

Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington, according to the center.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Ken Wills)

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