(TRENTON) – With the goal to ease the burden on college students receiving State financial aid who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris) and Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) passed the full Assembly by a vote of 80-0 on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
The bill (A-3946) would ensure students do not lose a future semester of financial aid eligibility if they are unable to complete the 2020 semester because of the coronavirus public health emergency.
Additionally, the measure would require the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to waive the amount of aid a student is typically required to pay back if they withdraw or reduce credits to below full-time, or in the case of part-time Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) recipients, below half-time. It also revises the grade point average requirement under the NJ STARS program to accommodate pass/fail grading structures some schools have adopted, and allow more students to retain their scholarships.
Asw. Jasey and Asm. Caputo released the following joint statement:
“The college experience has been significantly disrupted for students across New Jersey. No longer are most students living in dorms, attending interactive classes or participating in clubs and activities on campus. Few could have predicted they would end the semester learning remotely at home, largely isolated from their professors and peers.
“It may be more difficult for students to learn at home, particularly if they don’t have access to a computer or the Internet. Some may have needed time away from schoolwork to care for family members diagnosed with COVID-19, or to recover from illness themselves.
“Students shouldn’t need to worry if they will lose access to financial aid if they need to temporarily scale back classes as a result of the pandemic. During these unprecedented times, it’s important that we treat one another with compassion and understanding.”
The measure is also sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Morris, Somerset).