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New Jersey lawmakers not on board yet with Murphy’s tuition-free college plan

In New Jersey, several Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a state identification card for those lacking the personal documents required to get a federally compliant driver’s license. (WHYY file photo)

In New Jersey, several Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a state identification card for those lacking the personal documents required to get a federally compliant driver’s license. (WHYY file photo)

New Jersey lawmakers have some concerns about the $50 million Gov. Phil Murphy wants for a multi-year program to make community college tuition-free.

Acting Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis said that funding would help about 15,000 students who don’t have state and federal grants to cover the costs of attending community college.

“I think the idea is particularly for people that are adults who are coming back, who might not have been just coming straight from high school, who could use training, they would be eligible. And that students who might not otherwise go to college would be kind of encouraged to attend college because of this,” said Ellis.

Senate President Steve Sweeney isn’t convinced the program that could eventually cost $200 million is the way to go.

“Would we be better served funding programs that exist today and would we be better served by increasing funding to county colleges rather than creating a new program?” asked Sweeney.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo believes there should be some stipulations for students who would participate in the program.

“You need to be out of pocket a little bit even if it’s a payback over time or a loan. You need to have some incentives to stay there, work hard. It needs to be tied to achievements, the metrics of how well you do as a student, your GPA,” he said.

Sarlo said it’s uncertain if lawmakers will go along with retaining money in the budget for that program.

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