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New Jersey Attempting to Expand ‘Free’ College Programs

New Jersey Attempting to Expand ‘Free’ College Programs

“The plan, if approved, wouldn’t start until fall 2021.”

New Jersey already has some offerings for community colleges. Now it is expanding to four year schools.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

(Some) Free Tuition for Some in New Jersey

New Jersey is the latest state to create a tuition-free program for four-year institutions.

Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, announced the Garden State Guarantee in his 2020 state budget. It would add more than $50 million to the state’s outcomes-based funding formula so four-year public colleges can provide up to two years of free tuition. The plan, if approved, wouldn’t start until fall 2021.

It’s a step in the right direction, advocates say. But by focusing on tuition costs, they said the program excludes other essential costs of attending college.

The new program could also impact institutions in nearby states, as New Jersey is one of the nation’s biggest exporters of college students. If those institutions have to compete harder to get students, it could lead to further discounting, a practice many in higher education criticize.

The guarantee is limited to students with household incomes of $65,000 or less. All students would get predictable pricing from the deal, meaning they will be locked in at the initial tuition prices at public colleges for a full four years.

It builds on New Jersey’s Community College Opportunity Grants, which made community colleges tuition-free for up to three years for students below a certain income threshold.

The governor’s office wanted the guarantee to be comparable to the community college program so it would be easy for students to understand, said Zakiya Smith Ellis, secretary of education for New Jersey. And transfer students can use both programs to get two free years at a community college and then finish, tuition-free, at a four-year college.

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