Schaer, Jasey, Benson & Wimberly College Affordability & Preparedness Bill Now Law

(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey. Daniel R. Benson and Benjie Wimberly aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process has been signed into law.

“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 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.”

“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 helping 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.”

The law (A-4088) establishes the “High School to College Readiness Commission” to examine issues and develop recommendation to better prepare students for college. This would include raising the awareness of students and parents on the admission requirements and the financial and other issues associated with postsecondary education.

The commission will develop guidelines for high school students to create individual graduation plans which identify the courses necessary to meet state and local graduation requirements and college admission requirements; promote dual enrollment programs that allow students to earn college credit during high school; expand access to Advanced Placement courses; expand financial literacy instruction for students and their parents to include information on available state and federal tuition assistance programs, grants, scholarships, student loan programs and issues concerning student loan debt and debt repayment; and identifying students who are at risk of being college-ready by graduation and developing support services to help those students gain the necessary skills.

Members of the commission will include:

  • the commissioner of the Department of Education
  • the secretary of Higher Education
  • the executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA);
  • 11 members to be appointed by the governor, including:
    • one representative each for the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the New Jersey Parent-Teacher Association and the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools;
    • two representatives each for the New Jersey Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey;
      • two parents of students enrolled in a public school;
      • two members appointed by the Senate president, including:
        • a representative of the state colleges and universities
        • a representative of the public research universities
          • two members appointed by the Assembly speaker, including:

            • a representative of the county colleges
            • a representative of the independent institutions of higher education.