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Schaer, Jasey, Benson, Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle & Muoio College Affordability Legislation Advanced by Committee

The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced a three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey, Daniel R. Benson, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Elizabeth Muoio aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process before, during and after their time on campus.

“Too many students today are unprepared entering into a higher education system that leads them to incur crushing student loan debt,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We need to provide a path forward for New Jersey students by allowing them access to college curricula in high school, opening higher education possibilities and exposing them to the academic rigor ahead, and then providing them an option for a debt-free future.”

“The goal of this bill package is to make sure students in New Jersey fully understand the academic preparations for, and the financial implications of, their college choices and increase their ability to successfully complete a college education without crippling them financially for a lifetime,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “As many students start college underprepared in skills for the rigor of the coursework and the ever-increasing cost of higher education leads more and more students and their families into devastating debt burdens – at times, without a degree to show for it – this legislation must be a priority for our state.”

The bills:

· A-4084 (Schaer/Jasey/Benson/Mukherji) – Requires Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to establish income-driven repayment option and loan rehabilitation program for borrowers under New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) Loan Program.

· A-4085 (Schaer/Jasey/Vainieri Huttle/Benson) – Establishes “Succeed in New Jersey” student loan reimbursement program for certain New Jersey residents employed in designated fields.

· A-4087 (Schaer/Jasey/Muoio/Benson) – Establishes “New Jersey College Ready Students Program Act”; provides tuition-free dual enrollment opportunities at county college for certain high school students.

“College loan debt should not follow you throughout your adult life,” said Benson (D-Mercer/ Middlesex). “Responsible reform and targeted measures to educate incoming college students on managing loan debt is necessary to help students make informed choices. It’s time to end this cycle of loading students up with debt that too often takes a lifetime to pay back.”

“For too many students in New Jersey, pursuing higher education means taking on massive debt and then forgoing buying a house, getting married and starting a family in order to repay it,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “A college education should be something that empowers students to pursue their professional goals, not a burden that holds them back in life.”

“We must offer the next generation the tools to be successful at our colleges and universities,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “For their sake and our sake as a state, we must develop a more practical, more affordable means of preparing New Jersey’s workforce to compete in the 21st-century global economy.”

“The college experience should be one focused on learning, not overshadowed by mounting loans students must pay back upon graduation,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This is the first step to helping families avoid burdening themselves with debt.”

The three measures were advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.