Assembly Panel Advances Additional Reforms to Make College More Affordable & Attainable

Five-Bill Package is Sponsored by Riley, Giblin, Jasey, Cryan, Fuentes, Stender, Garcia, Pinkin, Burzichelli, Benson & Quijano

The Assembly Higher Education Committee on Thursday approved five more bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats that are part of a larger 20-bill package aimed at addressing the systemic factors pushing more and more New Jersey students into the real world saddled with debt and without a college degree.

The 20 bill package was first unveiled in March by Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Celeste Riley and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan to address many of the critical factors standing in the way of whether a student successfully completes college and in the most cost-effective manner possible, including: college readiness, completion rates, cost, data collection, accountability, and pathways to success.

The bills approved today are also sponsored by Assembly Democrats Thomas Giblin, Mila Jasey, Angel Fuentes, Linda Stender, Carmelo Garcia, Nancy Pinkin, John Burzichelli, Daniel Benson and Annette Quijano.

“This particular package of bills takes a very practical approach to higher education,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/ Gloucester/Salem). “College decisions need to be grounded in reality. Whether a student is prepared enough for a particular school or a particular course path is critical information they should be armed with when determining the appropriate course for their future.”

“Readiness on the part of our students and accountability on the part of our colleges are two critical factors in determining how likely a student is to graduate,” said Cryan (D-Union). “These crucial components included in this particular set of bills can make a marked difference in whether our students successfully complete college.”

The following bills were approved today:

A2800 – sponsored by Riley, Giblin, Jasey, Cryan, Fuentes – would require high school students to be assessed using college placement cut scores to determine readiness for college-level course work and the Commissioner of Education to develop plan to improve college and career counseling for students.

“In order to make sure students are truly ready for college courses they need to be assessed using real college metrics, otherwise they may find themselves in over their heads with a particular course load, discouraged and inclined to drop out,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic).

“The last thing we want is for a student to be placed in classes they’re simply not ready for,” said Fuentes (D-Camden). “They may end up with more debt because they have to retake the class or, even worse, they might drop out because they’re so discouraged. Hopefully this will prevent that.”

A2801 – sponsored by Jasey, Stender, Riley, Garcia – stipulates that no more than 120 credits will be required for a bachelor degree awarded by a public institution and no more than 60 credits for an associate degree.

“The workload and expenses for a degree should be the same or comparable, regardless of what public institution a student attends,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “This bill will ensure fairness and continuity for students pursuing the same degree at different schools.”

“We all know that students are graduating from college with far more student loan debt than ever before,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Uniformity in this area is important to ensure that students aren’t overburdened just so a college can get more money out of them.”

A2805 – sponsored by Jasey, Riley, Cryan, Stender, Pinkin – would direct the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a common core course numbering system for public institutions of higher education for general education core classes leading to an associate degree or a bachelor degree.

“Transferring between schools can be costly and counter-productive depending on how many core requirements are transferrable,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Requiring schools to use a common course numbering system will create much-needed continuity at the core level to help eliminate these problems.”

“Transferring is very common, especially for students who attend community college first,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Anyone who has ever transferred knows what a nightmare it can be trying to get the new school to accept your previous credits. This will help eliminate some of that uncertainty and save time and money.”

A2814 – sponsored by Cryan, Burzichelli, Riley, Benson – would direct the Secretary of Higher Education to revoke a proprietary school’s license to award academic degrees if the school fails to achieve a six-year graduation rate of at least 75% for full-time students enrolled in a four-year degree program and a three-year graduation rate of at least 75% for full-time students enrolled in a two-year degree program.

“Access to college is all but meaningless if it’s not followed up with a degree and decent job potential,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Holding these schools more accountable will help ensure they have the student’s best interests in mind, not just their bottom line.”

“Proprietary schools might give struggling students access, but not a great deal of success,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Access without graduation, without employment, is something students and our nation cannot afford.”

A2815 – sponsored by Pinkin, Cryan, Riley, Quijano and Benson – would require the New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority to annually submit a report to the Governor and Legislature detailing the debt ratio and the debt burden ratio for each public institution of higher education.

“Transparency, when it comes to a college’s finances, is important,” said Pinkin. “Substantial debt loads can have a significant impact on yearly tuition rate hikes and prospective students and their families should be aware of that before they decide on a school.”

“Debt held by our colleges has grown exponentially over the last few decades,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This becomes a burden our students are forced to shoulder, leaving them with even more loan debt when they graduate. Students and their parents should have an understanding of a school’s debt load before choosing where to go so they understand the potential costs they may have to bear.”

The committee has now advanced a total of nine bills from the 20-bill package so far.