(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy wants to allocate up to $50 million to help New Jersey residents attend college who may not be able to afford it.
The so-called Garden State Guarantee (GSG) would grant New Jersey residents with an annual gross income of $65,000 or less two years of tuition- and fee-free education at a four-year public college or university in the state.
The governor’s $44.8 billion 2022 fiscal year budget proposal includes $45 million for the push – in the form of aid to all 13 state colleges and universities using the Outcomes-Based Allocation – and an additional $5 million for “program implementation” is available if needed.
“Since day one, we’ve taken meaningful steps toward addressing college affordability and attainability for students at all income levels,” Murphy said in a news release. “With the Garden State Guarantee initiative, we’re making another critical investment to ensure that every student has access to an affordable, high-quality postsecondary education, which in return will create a highly skilled workforce and a stronger, fairer, and more resilient economy.”
The proposal builds on the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program, which includes two years at a community college.
“We need to work to make a seamless program so that money is well spent, not repeated or squandered and so that it goes as far as possible to make sure everyone in our state who wants an education can graduate without ten years of debt,” Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex/Morris, chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, said in a news release. “Our people in our state are our treasure. There is no better investment than education and training.”
An estimated 7,000 students would directly benefit from the program in year one, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges said during a state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing last week.
“I see this as a program that seems quite ambitious,” said Sen. Michael Testa, R-Cumberland, said during the committee hearing. “...Do we have a projection as to how long this project can be funded? I share the fears [that] ... we start this program, and then it’s going to be phased out quickly, and that’s a real concern of mine.”
Testa also questioned why more focus isn’t going to trade schools especially given the renewed focus on infrastructure.
It is not clear how much it will cost taxpayers over time, as the $50 million would only fund the program for one year.
“We are committed to making it work long-term, and the cost per year will differ based on enrollment,” Bridges said during the committee hearing.