Looking to reduce higher education expenses for veterans, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Raj Mukherji and Britnee Timberlake to expand eligibility for educational assistance passed the full Senate Thursday, 37-0. The bill previously passed the full Assembly June 20, 76-0-0.
The bill (A-5390) conforms to federal law to broaden the definition of a “covered individual” under the New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military (NJTEAM) Act.
If signed into law, in-state tuition rates would apply to veterans living in New Jersey and attending a public institution of higher education – regardless of their state of residence – if they are entitled to educational assistance under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.”
Other individuals, such as the veteran’s spouse or child, could also be eligible for the in-state tuition rate under this legislation.
“Tuition for higher education continues to be a source of extreme debt for many individuals and their families,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Veterans are no exception. This bill will serve as a tool to make these expenses more manageable.”
“By expanding the pool of veterans and their families who can benefit from in-state tuition under the NJTEAM Act, we are thanking our veterans for the tremendous sacrifices that they have made for our nation and our freedom,” said Mukherji
(D-Hudson), a former sergeant in the U.S. Marines. “Access to higher education can also improve their transition back to civilian life and widens their economic opportunities.”
“As the daughter of a retired sergeant who served in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, I know first-hand how much our veterans sacrifice each day to protect us all,” said Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). “This bill is yet another way to thank our veterans for their service.”
The bill now heads to the governor for further consideration.