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Package of Bills Would Help Reduce Tuition Costs for In-State Residents

With rising tuition costs and a stagnant economy, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) is sponsoring two pieces of legislation to help make college more affordable for working and middle class families in New Jersey.

“Students everywhere are struggling with rising tuition rates and a reduction in tuition aid grants,” said Wagner. “In this difficult economy parents are also struggling to help their children pay for college. We have to find ways to put downward pressure on the ever-increasing costs of college so that it doesn’t become out of reach for many students.”

The first bill (A-3747) would authorize public institutions of higher education to charge a cheaper tuition rate for students who graduated from a public high school located in the same municipality in which a campus of the institution is located. Under the bill, for a four-year institution, the tuition rate would be less than the in-state tuition rate for New Jersey residents. For a county college, the tuition rate would be less than the tuition rate established by the college for residents of the county.

The second bill (A-3781) Wagner is sponsoring would prohibit a public institution of higher education from increasing the resident undergraduate tuition rates for any academic year by more than four percent over the rate for the prior academic year.

Language in the FY 2011 budget allowed public institutions of higher education to exceed the previous four percent cap that had been in place although the institution will see a reduction in state aid if the average in-state undergraduate 2010-2011 tuition rates and required educational and general fees exceeds four percent growth above the 2009-2010 rates.

Wagner noted that according to the Wall Street Journal, the average student debt of college graduates this year is $22,900. As of December 2010, total outstanding student debt in the U.S was $530 billion, up 29 percent in just three years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“The Class of 2011 has the unfortunate distinction of graduating from American colleges and universities as the most indebted class ever,” added Wagner. “When students graduate this far in the hole and then have a hard time finding a job in this economy, it also hinders their ability to move out on their own, buy a home or start a family. We need to do all we can to make sure this dream doesn’t slip from their grasp.”

Both bills await hearings before the Assembly Higher Education Committee.