N.J. will offer free tuition at some community colleges

Not all of the state's 19 community colleges will be included in the pilot program because not enough was budgeted this year to cover the costs

(Big Stock image)

(Big Stock image)

New Jersey’s 19 community colleges have been asked to apply to join a pilot program allowing students who earn less than $45,000 and take six or more credits to attend classes without paying tuition or fees.

Because only $20 million for the program was included in the state budget, not every community college can offer free tuition.

Several factors will be considered when officials select colleges for the pilot, said Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis.

“Their capacity to actually enroll and recruit new students. The quality of their plans for supporting students who actually complete their credentials,” she said. “We’ll be looking at how much the plans will cost at all of the different colleges — and also their plans for keeping costs down in the future — as we think thing about how to build this program out to more colleges.”

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The initial phase of the tuition-fee initiative will help thousands of students, said David Socolow, executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

“At the colleges that are selected, every student who enrolls in the spring of 2019 whose adjusted gross income is between zero and $45,000 and takes at least six credits will have no cost for tuition and fees that semester,” he said.

Ellis said using taxpayer money for the free tuition program is a good investment.

“When people have higher levels of education, they’re less likely to use public benefits in any form,” she said. “They will more likely get a higher income, which means they’ll pay more in taxes.”

Colleges have until Aug. 31 to apply to participate in the pilot program. Officials will select schools by the end of September.

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