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Assembly Panel Oks Diegnan, Egan, Gusciora, Lampitt & Jasey Bill to Extend College Tuition Aid to Part-Time, Four-Year Students

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Joseph Egan, Reed Gusciora, Pamela Lampitt and Mila Jasey to expand the state’s tuition aid grant program to part-time undergraduate students gained approval from an Assembly panel on Monday.
The legislation is part of a broader package of bills designed to make higher education more affordable in order to combat poverty under a new Assembly Democrats’ initiative unveiled by Speaker Vincent Prieto last month.
“College costs have skyrocketed in recent years, as has our poverty rate,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “While college has been a proven path in helping people pull themselves out of poverty, the cost of a college education today has put it further out of reach for more and more people. Expanding financial assistance will make that dream a reality for students who can’t afford college.”
The bill (A-2138) would expand the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program to part-time undergraduate students who are enrolled in an eligible four-year institution in New Jersey.
Under the current program, tuition aid grants are awarded to full-time undergraduate students enrolled in an approved degree or certificate program at a four-year institution of higher education, as well as part-time students enrolled at county colleges for 6-11 credits.
“New Jersey has one of the most generous need-based financial aid programs in the nation, but unfortunately it doesn’t extend to part-time students at four-year institutions,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This bill would change all that.”
“Most low- and moderate-income students have no choice but to work while going to school, forcing them to enroll part-time,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Extending the TAG program to help make college more affordable for them makes perfect sense.”
The bill stipulates that part-time grant awards would be prorated against the full-time grant award for public and independent institutions of higher education as determined by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.
“To help end the cycle of poverty we need to do more to make college affordable and attainable for more New Jersey students,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Tuition aid has been the conduit to this dream for many full-time students, which is why it should be for part-timers as well.”
“With our poverty rate at the highest it’s been in nearly five decades, many students don’t have the luxury of going to school full-time and not working,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Unfortunately, enrolling part-time puts tuition aid out of reach for some of our students who need it the most. Expanding the TAG program would help change the lives of many prospective students.”
Currently, TAG awards may cover up to the cost of tuition and the amount of the award depends on several factors, including financial need and cost of attendance. Available funding awards may be renewed annually as long as the student continues to meet eligibility requirements.
In order to be eligible for a TAG grant under the current statute, students must:
? Demonstrate financial need;
? Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen;
? Be a legal resident of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to enrollment;
? Be registered with Selective Service (if required);
? Maintain satisfactory academic progress; and
? Be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled in an approved degree or certificate program.
The amount of a tuition aid grant may not exceed the maximum amount of tuition normally charged at a public institution or 50 percent of the average tuition normally charged at an independent institution.
Presently, one-third of all full-time undergrads attending school in New Jersey receive support through TAG.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Higher Education Committee chaired by Jasey.