(TRENTON) – A two-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Mila Jasey to promote college affordability has been signed into law.
According to the College Affordability Study Commission, “an increasing number of degree programs require more credits than can be reasonably accomplished in a four- or two-year term.”
In Indiana, a review of the state’s public institutions of higher education found that the requirements of nearly 90 percent of degree programs exceeded what once was considered the standard (120 credits for a bachelor’s degree and 60 credits for associate degrees).
Similarly, the Commission found that the cost of tuition when spending all four years at a senior institution is significantly higher than spending some time at a community college.
In New Jersey, Rowan University, Rowan College at Gloucester County, and Rowan College at Burlington County recently enacted a program that keeps each institution independent while improving college pathways at lower costs. By putting this type of program in place, Rowan University expects students to be able to earn a bachelor’s degree at roughly one half of the cost.
The goal of these newly signed laws is to make college in New Jersey more affordable overall.
“Combined, these measures both inform students and their families of what it takes to graduate in four years, and asks institutions to be mindful of ensuring it is possible for students to earn a degree in four years, which will ultimately save on tuition costs, resulting in less debt and less stress,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris).
The first law (A-3634) provides that no more than 120 credits will be required for four-year baccalaureate degrees awarded by a public institution and no more than 60 credits for two-year associate degrees. This would prevent colleges and universities, for example, from requiring students to retake courses they have already taken, which would increase their college expenses.
The second law (A-3829) directs the Secretary of Higher Education to establish the “30 Credits Per Year to Finish” communication campaign to raise awareness among students and their families that a student should take no less than 30 credits per year to graduate within two years in the case of an associate degree or within four years in the case of a baccalaureate degree.
The communication campaign will use a variety of marketing media including billboards, brochures, and electronic resources, and must reach students directly during course registration for the academic semester. This measure implements a recommendation of the College Affordability Study Commission included in its September 2016 final report. According to the report, one reason it takes students longer to graduate is because they are repeatedly taking fewer than 15 credits per semester. Lighter course loads delay graduation dates and increase total higher education costs.
The bills were signed today by Gov. Murphy.