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(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Peter J. Barnes and Pamela Lampitt on Tuesday touted new legislation to encourage New Jersey’s best and brightest college graduates to stay in New Jersey to start their careers.

The bill (A-4095) would create a “Retaining Our Best and Brightest Loan Redemption Program” to provide incentives to encourage academically successful graduates of New Jersey colleges and universities to remain in the state, and academically successful New Jersey residents attending out of state colleges and universities to return to the state after graduation.

The purpose of the program is to increase New Jersey’s economic competitiveness in the 21st century by increasing the percentage of educated individuals within the state’s workforce, making New Jersey a more attractive place for existing and potential new businesses.

“New Jersey is only as strong as the people who keep its engine running,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “These students have excelled at school, and through this program, would be incentivized to do the same as employees for the many businesses operating in the state.”

“In an increasingly competitive market, companies are looking to bring on board the best candidates for the job,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex). “This program works to keep a viable talent pool here in New Jersey that will help these businesses, and in turn the state’s economy, thrive.”

“Today, college students are graduating with increasing and alarming amounts of student loan debt, at a time when tuition rates soar and the Governor has slashed tuition aid to students,” said Lampitt (D-Camden), who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “This program will help ease those loan burdens, encouraging our best and brightest graduates to start their careers and their families in New Jersey.”

Under the program, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) will redeem up to 20 percent of the required minimum monthly payment on a graduate’s eligible NJCLASS loan, provided that the participant remains compliant with the program’s eligibility criteria for the duration of the previous month.

In order to be eligible to receive loan redemption, an individual must:

  • be a resident of the state and a domiciliary of the state.
  • work full time, or the equivalent of full time for multiple employers within the state.
  • have graduated with 3.0 GPA or its equivalent.
  • have an annual income of no more than $75,000, and pay a minimum of 20 percent of his other gross monthly income toward the discharge of student loans.

The student who received the NJCLASS loan must not have received more than 60 months of assistance under the program, and the loan must (1) have been issued after the program becomes operable (2) not have had 120 required monthly payments made toward it and (3) be on a repayment plan requiring at least 180 monthly payments.

The cost of providing this program to NJCLASS borrowers will be built into the interest rate charged to all NJCLASS borrowers.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.