Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sgt. Robert Andrzejczak, Joseph Lagana, Vincent Mazzeo, Gordon Johnson and Daniel R. Benson that would allow veterans attending a public college or university in New Jersey to pay in-state tuition rates gained final legislative approval in the Senate on Thursday.
The measure now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill (A-3967), to be known as the “New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military (NJTEAM) Act,” would allow a veteran or covered individual attending a public institution of higher education in New Jersey while living in New Jersey to be considered a resident of the state for the purpose of determining tuition, regardless of the veteran’s or covered individual’s state of residence.
A “veteran” means a person who has served on active duty in Uniformed Services of the United States and was discharged or released and who qualifies for education assistance under federal law. A “covered individual” means an individual, such as a veteran’s spouse or children eligible for education assistance under federal law by virtue of their relationship to a veteran.
“For my fellow veterans, the transition to civilian life can be challenging,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), a U.S. Army veteran who served and was wounded in Iraq. “With this bill, we’ll rightfully be giving veterans a helping hand and showing respect for their sacrifices and bravery in protecting our freedoms. An education is the road to a better future, so let’s make it easier for our veterans – who have given so much to our country – to obtain one.”
“We owe so much to our veterans,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We know an education opens the doors to employment and success, and with recent statistics showing the unemployment rate for veterans who have served since 9/11 at 10 percent, we have to do more to make it easier for our veterans to pursue higher education. This is one way to try to accomplish this worthy goal.”
“Our nation’s veterans need to know that New Jersey welcomes all who have so valiantly served their country,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “No matter where they’re from originally, this bill represents our invitation for these honorable men and women to call our state home.”
“The men and women who volunteer to serve in this nation’s military are some of the hardest working individuals in America,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a major. “This bill will allow them to reach their full potential through access to higher education here in New Jersey.”
“As the patriotic men and women who served our nation transition back into civilian life, the very least we can do is make sure they can find good jobs that pay well,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “With this bill, in a spirit of gratitude for their service, we help enable all veterans to get a degree and ease that transition.”
The bill, which in December received unanimous Assembly approval, was also passed unanimously in the Senate.