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Assembly Democrats Bill Package on College Affordability Gains Assembly Panel Approval

A bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Angelica Jimenez, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Daniel Benson promoting college affordability was advanced by the Assembly Higher Education Committee on Monday.

According to the College Affordability Study Commission, in Indiana, a review of the state’s public institutions of higher education found that the requirements of nearly 90 percent of degree programs exceeded what once was considered the standard (120 credits for a bachelor’s degree and 60 credits for associate degrees). Similarly, the Commission found that the cost of tuition when spending all four years at a senior institution is significantly higher than spending some time at a community college. In New Jersey, Rowan University, Rowan College at Gloucester County, and Rowan College at Burlington County recently enacted a program that keeps each institution independent while improving college pathways at lower costs. By putting this type of program in place, Rowan University expects students to be able to earn a bachelor’s degree at roughly one half of the cost. The goal of this bill package is to make college in New Jersey more affordable overall, noted the sponsors.

The bills:
· A-3634 (Jasey) – Provides that no more than 120 credits will be required for four-year baccalaureate degrees awarded by a public institution and no more than 60 credits for two-year associate degrees.

· A-3829 (Jasey) – Directs the Secretary of Higher Education to establish the “30 Credits Per Year to Finish” communication campaign, which would raise awareness among students and their families that a student should take no less than 30 credits per year to graduate within two years in the case of an associate degree or within four years in the case of a baccalaureate degree.

“Combined, these bills both inform students and their families of what it takes to graduate in four years and asks institutions to be mindful of ensuring it is possible for students to earn a degree in four years,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Which will ultimately save on tuition costs, resulting in less debt and less stress.”

· A-1890 (Jimenez, Vainieri Huttle, Benson) – Permits a four-year institution of higher education and a county college to partner in the establishment of a “three plus one” degree program for a baccalaureate degree, meaning a student admitted into the program would complete three academic years at the county college and gain automatic admission in the fourth academic year to the four-year institution. In addition, students admitted to this program would not jeopardize their eligibility for state tuition aid grants or scholarships.

“The goal of this program is to ultimately lower tuition costs for college students,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “By participating in this program, students would only be responsible for paying one year’s tuition at the senior institution, which is always more expensive than county college tuition rates, which would result in paying less than what they would if they were to spend all four years at a senior school.”

“It’s simple – increasing the number of college graduates in New Jersey will improve our job market as well as our overall economy,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This program helps to make college more affordable, more accessible, and will help to create successful futures for both our students and our state.”

“College loan debt should not follow you throughout your adult life,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We need to provide a path forward for New Jersey students by opening more higher education possibilities, and that starts with creating options like the ‘three plus one’ program for a debt-free future. It’s time to end this cycle of loading students up with debt that too often takes a lifetime to pay back.”