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Jimenez, Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill Establishing College Affordability “Three plus One” Program Heads to Governor’s Desk

Dedicated to making college more affordable in New Jersey, the Assembly approved legislation Monday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angelica Jimenez, Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson establishing a “three plus one” degree program for a baccalaureate degree.

The bill (A-1890) states that a student admitted into the “three plus one” program would complete three academic years at a county college and gain automatic admission in the fourth academic year to the four-year institution. In addition, students admitted to this program would not jeopardize their eligibility for state tuition aid grants or scholarships.

“The goal of this program is to ultimately lower tuition costs for college students,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “By participating in this program, students would only be responsible for paying one year’s tuition at a senior institution, which is always more expensive than county college tuition rates, which would result in paying less than what they would if they were to spend all four years at a senior school.”

According to the College Affordability Study Commission, 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.
While the student would receive his degree from the senior institution, he would be responsible for only one year of tuition at the rate the senior institution charges and paying the county college rate for the other three years.

“It’s simple – increasing the number of college graduates in New Jersey will improve our job market as well as our overall economy,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This program helps to make college more affordable, more accessible and will help to create successful futures for both our students and our state.”

In the third academic year, the content of courses in the students’ major will be determined by the department of the four-year institution with input from the county college faculty in an effort to maintain academic quality control.

“College loan debt should not follow you throughout your adult life,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We need to provide a path forward for New Jersey students by opening more higher education possibilities, and that starts with creating options like the ‘three plus one’ program for a debt free future. It’s time to end this cycle of loading students with debt that too often takes a lifetime to pay back.”

Under the bill, the Secretary of Higher Education will provide an annual report to the Governor and the legislature on the number of “three plus one” degree programs implemented during the prior academic year.

After gaining approval from both the Senate and Assembly, this measure now heads to the Governor’s desk for further consideration.