Continuing efforts to make college more affordable and accessible, the Assembly Higher Education Committee on Thursday approved legislation to establish a new scholarship program for high achieving students and revise the State’s current program, the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS).
“It’s no secret that the costs of college are a tremendous burden for many hardworking families in New Jersey,” said Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “Revamping the NJSTARS program can ease some of that burden, and open doors for more students to pursue higher education right here in New Jersey.”
The bill (A-2769), sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, expands eligibility for New Jersey high school students to receive college scholarships. Under the current NJSTARS program, students who ranked in the top 15 percent of their junior or senior class are eligible to receive a free tuition for up to five semesters at their county college. This legislation would open eligibility to students ranked in the top 20 percent of their 11th or 12th grade class. In doing so, NJ STARS would become part of a new initiative created under this bill called the New Jersey HonorScholars program.
Under the bill, in addition to providing county college scholarships, the new program would offer scholarships of $2,000 each semester for students to attend four-year higher education institutions in New Jersey. Students who received a county college scholarship from the HonorScholars program and graduated from a county college, as well as attained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 upon graduation, would be eligible for scholarships for up to four semesters, excluding summer sessions. This scholarship would replace the NJ STARS II Program, under which NJ STARS students meeting the same criteria would be eligible for scholarships of $1,250 for four semesters at four-year institutions.
Additionally, students who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school graduating class would be eligible for New Jersey HonorScholars scholarships for all four years of college, up to eight semesters excluding summer sessions.
“Since 2004, NJ STARS has helped so many students live their dream of going to college,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “As tuition and college expenses continue to rise, it’s time for us to improve this program so that more students can benefit.”
“A majority of students depend on loans, grants and scholarships to pay for college,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “As a state that prioritizes education, we know we can do more to expand tuition assistance opportunities for students looking to take the next step in their academic careers.”
Eligibility for the New Jersey HonorScholars program would require students to:
- have an annual family income, both taxable and non-taxable, as derived from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year, of less than $250,000;
- be a State resident
- have applied for all other available forms of State and federal need-based grants and merit scholarships, exclusive of loans, the full amount of which grants and scholarships would be applied to tuition to reduce the amount of any scholarship that the student receives pursuant to the program;
- be enrolled in a full-time course of study and maintain a 3.0 grade point average; and
- maintain continuous enrollment in a full-time course of study, unless on medical leave due to the illness of the student or a member of the student’s immediate family or emergency leave because of a family emergency, or unless called to partial or full mobilization for State or federal active duty as a member of the National Guard or a Reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States.
The legislation also includes a grandfather provision that provides for a student receiving a scholarship under NJ STARS in their first year of study at a county college to continue receiving the scholarship. The same would apply to students participating in the NJ STARS II program in their third year of study.
The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.