Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) on Thursday expressed deep concern over the elimination of the Survivor Tuition Benefit Program following an Assembly Budget Committee hearing on Gov. Christie’s proposed higher education budget for FY 2014.
Burzichelli noted that the Survivor Tuition Benefit Program covers the cost of tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges for the children or spouses of firefighters, law enforcement and emergency personnel who die in the line of duty.
“This subsidy seems like the least we can do for those pursuing higher education given the enormous sacrifice their loved ones have made to serve the public. In many cases, their parent or spouse may have been the primary breadwinner in the family, making the cost of tuition all that more difficult to cover given this loss.
“I’m reminded of a line from the ‘Firefighter’s Prayer’ that reads, ‘And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.’ I think this is a plea that we are all bound to answer in gratitude to the unwavering sacrifices these public servants make.
“We would hope that this program never has to be used, and hopefully this funding will merely be symbolic and lapse each year without having been spent, but should we encounter a tragedy, the survivors of our emergency personnel deserve to have the benefit of this insurance policy.
“I’m troubled that this program would be so readily put on the chopping block and I hope the Governor will reconsider this decision as we move forward with the budget process,” said Burzichelli.