New Jersey panel on college affordability expects to wrap up work by September

 In this Tuesday, June 18, 2013 photograph, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand talks about growth at the school in Glassboro, N.J.  (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In this Tuesday, June 18, 2013 photograph, Rowan University President Ali Houshmand talks about growth at the school in Glassboro, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

The New Jersey College Affordability Commission will be making its recommendations in September.

One member hopes for a change in the way state tuition assistance grants are distributed.

Rowan University President Ali Houshmand said the $400 million in “TAG” grants are correlated with tuition costs. That means individual students get from $2,000 up to $12,000 depending on which college they attend.

Restructuring the way the funds are distributed could help more low-income students afford to go to college, Houshmand said.

“Education — and higher education — is the greatest equalizer for our society and the more we can get low-income people to get education the better it is for them because otherwise these people will become a burden to us and our society and I think it’s incumbent upon us to help them,” Houshmand said.

Cynthia Montalvo, the financial aid director at Felician University, said limiting grants to the spring and fall semesters may be outdated considering the increased use of online learning.

“To be able to offer year-round funding while increasing disbursement flexibility will give students the incentive to finish on time or even in an accelerated manner,” she said.

Changes in the TAG program are on the table, said commission chairman Frederick Keating, adding that the financial discussions will be the most difficult part of its work.

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