N.J. launches free-tuition pilot program

Community college students in New Jersey may be able to attend free of tuition and fees in the spring 2019 — if their college applies and is selected to participate in the state’s new Community College Innovation Challenge.

New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education and the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) have invited the state’s 19 community colleges to submit an application for the new pilot program, launched this week.

New Jersey’s fiscal year 2019 state budget includes new funding for the first phase of Gov. Phil Murphy’s community college initiative, including up to $20 million for Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) awards that will apply directly to eligible student accounts. At participating colleges, students with adjusted gross incomes of up to $45,000 who take six or more credits in the spring 2019 semester will be eligible to receive CCOG awards to cover tuition and educational fees, after applying any other federal or state grant aid which the student receives.

The pilot is an important step to continue to expand access to postsecondary education that state residents need to succeed in today’s rapidly changing economy, said Aaron Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.

“We applaud Governor Murphy’s vision and commitment to expanding college access and affordability, and his belief in community colleges as a solution to help improve the state,” he said.

The Secretary of Higher Education and HESAA will jointly evaluate applications to select an initial group of colleges whose students will be eligible for CCOG awards. The application specifies key criteria including the colleges’ plans for outreach to and support for students, how their cost projections fit within statewide funding constraints and geographic diversity.

All colleges that submit an application will be eligible to receive a capacity building grant of at least $250,000 to plan for subsequent phases of the program.

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