Credit: NJLA (New Jersey Library Association) via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
College students study in the library

Citing the need to make college more affordable in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget would increase overall spending on financial aid, which is provided to thousands of low-income college students each year.

But lawmakers want to go even further, making key changes to one of the state’s most popular student aid programs. Their goal: to help students reduce debt and make better use of the financial aid they receive from the federal government.

An Assembly committee will consider legislation Thursday that would allow students who receive state tuition grants to use the money to offset the cost of classes they take this summer.

The proposed change is aimed at solving one of the main problems identified in a special report about the financial aid program, commonly referred to as “TAG,” released last year by the State Higher Education Student Aid Authority.

Currently, TAGs can only be used by students enrolled in the fall and spring semesters, even though aid provided through a similar federal Pell Grant program can be used to fund summer courses, the report said.

Lowering the cost of college

With concerns about college affordability and rising student debt, sponsors say the legislation would provide, at least temporarily, another way for the state to support low-income students who want to earn a college degree. The measure has already cleared the full Senate by a 36-0 margin.

More than 1.1 million people from New Jersey applied, according to Politico

“Not every student wants to take classes in the summer, but for some, it’s a great option to make it easier to graduate early or catch up and avoid an extra year,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen).

“Whatever their reason is, if a TAG recipient wants to take summer classes, we have to help them do that,” Sarlo said.

Overall, Murphy’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for a $15 million increase in TAG spending to $492 million. budget documents. The increased funding will be used to increase the total value of the scholarships, which are awarded annually to a group of approximately 20,000 students who have the most significant financial need.

The proposed funding increase for the TAG program comes as Murphy also plans to increase funding for several other state-funded college affordability programs in his fiscal year 2024 budget, according to budget documents.

An assembly review is inevitable

Members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee plan to consider the legislation Thursday to authorize the reward TAG assistance to eligible students for the upcoming summer 2023 semester.

Black students face greater burden than white students as debt relief efforts continue

An eligible student enrolled in six to eight credits will receive half of the full-time award, and a student enrolled in nine to 11 credits will receive three-quarters of the full-time award. legislation.

A financial impact assessment of this legislation shows that it would cost relatively little to pass at a time when the state’s annual budget has grown to more than $50 billion a year with a budget surplus of nearly $10 billion.

The estimated cost of funding TAG aid this summer is between $27 million and $36 million, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. Moreover, according to the OLS financial assessment, the cost of temporary funding for summer TAG awards could be fully covered by already budgeted but unspent balances for student aid programs.

“This legislation would use leftover funding from last year’s budget to expand the program to support summer sessions this year, allowing students to get ahead of their course load,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex).

Take TAG into the future

And while the policy change will now only be allowed for summer courses running this year, supporters say it could eventually be extended to future years.

During recent testimony before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, David Russo, vice president of the New Jersey Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, pointed to how the policy changes could help students juggle family and work demands to graduate within four years. .

“These students are already paying for these courses with Pell grants and their own funds, which are likely to be student loans or maybe even worse, credit cards,” he said.

In addition to helping TAG recipients, Rousseau also suggested that the proposed policy change could benefit all students seeking to graduate early by increasing the overall demand for summer courses.

“This expansion will help students graduate faster and with less debt,” Russo said.

Meanwhile, the measure is also supported by the NJBIA (New Jersey Business and Industry Association) as a way to improve the connection between higher education and the workforce.

“Anything we can do to increase students’ opportunities to accelerate their baccalaureate and ultimately enter the workforce is ideal,” said Althea Ford, NJBIA vice president of government relations.

Source link

Previous articleVerdict at trial in death of Lindenwold woman during Willingboro robbery
Next articleSingle Chinese Inventor Creates Creepy Kissing Machine After Correction Banned Him From Seeing Girlfriend