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Tucker & Eustace Bill to Facilitate Academic Achievement for College Students Serving in the Military Clears Committee

Legislation Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker and Tim Eustace sponsored to require public institutions of higher education to provide greater assistance to certain students with military obligations was advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.

The bill (A-375) would require each public and independent institution of higher education in New Jersey to adopt and implement policies and procedures to assist students who cannot meet academic obligations due to drills, training or other military duties.

“Men and women in our military shouldn’t have to feel the need to make a choice between serving their country and furthering their academic careers,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “This legislation will help New Jersey institutions of higher education ensure that their students who serve in the military feel welcome and supported on campus.”

Under the bill, once a student serving as a member of the National Guard or a Reserve component of the Armed Forces notifies a professor of his or her military obligations, the professor and the student shall enter into a contract that details each party’s academic obligations when the student’s military obligations interrupt coursework. Each institution of higher education shall develop a standard template for the contract through a negotiated process involving representatives of the administration, faculty unions and veterans groups.

The legislation provides that accommodations to assist students shall include: lecture notes from the professor or instructor, access to a tutor and at least five days per each missed class to enable the student to complete coursework. Additionally, professors and instructors shall, to the extent feasible, offer the student options to complete coursework remotely through a modified curriculum that utilizes the Internet and other means in the event that the student’s military obligations prevent class attendance.

“Military students gain personal development and career skills from our colleges and universities, but they also bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom from which their peers can benefit,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Taking action to provide them with everything they need on campus will make it easier for some of the bravest and most selfless students in New Jersey to achieve academic success.”

The legislation also would require institutions to accept and apply up to 30 credits toward an undergraduate degree or up to 12 credits toward a graduate degree based on a student’s military experience.

Although current law makes accommodations with respect to course grades for students called for mobilization, it does not include similar accommodations for military students who may miss coursework for other military-related reasons. This bill would allow students who cannot complete a course due to drills, training or other military duties to have the option to receive a letter grade, a grade of pass or fail, a grade of incomplete or a withdrawal from the course, provided the student has completed at least eight weeks of the course. Students who have completed less than eight weeks may choose to receive a grade of incomplete or withdraw from the course.

A student who chooses to accept a grade of pass or fail may, within one year of returning to the institution, receive a letter grade by completing the required coursework. A student who chooses to withdraw from a course shall receive a full refund of tuition and fees attributable to that course.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which Tucker is chair.