N.J. lawmakers start discussion on making college more affordable

 Undated Rutgers-Camden graduation ceremony (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Undated Rutgers-Camden graduation ceremony (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Two New Jersey lawmakers have unveiled a package of 20 bills aimed at making college more affordable.

One of the measures would freeze tuition rates and fees for nine semesters after a student’s initial enrollment at a four-year public or independent college, said Assemblyman Joe Cryan.

“We think it’s an opportunity for the schools to practice long-term budgeting that may make some sense, and we think it’s an opportunity to achieve academic success with some financial help,” said Cryan, D-Union.

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley said stable tuition costs would be a big selling point for New Jersey colleges in attracting students.

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“What a great selling feature, for someone to know that come to the state of New Jersey, enter one of our four-year public institutions, or stay in New Jersey and enter our four-year institution, and know what your tuition is in your freshman year and your senior year,” said Riley, D-Cumberland.

The lawmakers also want to require that any college failing to achieve a six-year graduation rate of at least 50 percent be closed.

Another proposed bill would allow a state income tax deduction for student loan interest to give grads incentive to stay in the state.

Cryan said he’s tired of hearing about the thousands of students who leave college without a degree but are saddled with debt from tuition expenses.

The sponsors said they expect the proposals will be a starting point for discussions on ways to make higher ed more cost-effective.

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