Murphy announces potential plan make Rutgers, other schools tuition-free for two years

<p>Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said his proposed program will allow low-income students to attend certain schools tuition-free for two years.&nbsp;</p>

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) said his proposed program will allow low-income students to attend certain schools tuition-free for two years. 

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced Tuesday that his third state budget proposal includes $50 million in taxpayer money to fund a program called, “The Garden State Guarantee,” according to an article on NJ Advance Media.

This program, which Murphy outlined on Wednesday, will offer low-income students the chance to attend public institutions in New Jersey tuition-free for two years, including Rutgers, according to the article.

“This is a big day for us,” Murphy said, according to the article. “We come at this moment, we come to this event with a mindset that accessibility and affordability of a higher-education degree … is something we can’t put enough energy into.”

Pending approval from state lawmakers, incoming first-years whose families earn less than $65,000 will be eligible for the program in fall 2021, according to the article.

Through the program, eligible students will still be required to apply for both federal and state financial aid, but the state will cover the remainder of the costs, according to the article.

Murphy said this program did not come sooner because it took time to get it up and running, according to the article.

While state officials said it is difficult to say how many students would be eligible, Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis said he estimates tens of thousands of students will benefit, according to the article.

The state officials will also ask universities to create a sliding scale for families who may make slightly more than $65,000, according to this article. This will allow for these families to also earn a portion of the aid.

“We know that sometimes if you’re just above that (lower income level), you kind of fall off a cliff where you feel like, ‘Whoa, there’s no aid,’” Smith Ellis said, according to the article.

The $50 million that was included in Murphy’s third-state budget proposal will be divided among New Jersey’s four-year public institutions, as long as they promise to allow all eligible students to attend tuition free, according to the article.

The program will still require eligible students to cover the costs of books, room, board, transportation and other costs, according to the article.

Students will also be able to combine this program with New Jersey’s already existing “free” community college program, according to the article. After attending a community college tuition-free for two years, eligible students can then transfer to a four-year, public institution for two years tuition-free.

“There’s no other state in America that offers these programs,” Murphy said, according to the article. “This is full-on Jersey.”

While it is currently unclear if the state lawmakers favor the plan, the top Republican representative said he is not a fan of the idea, according to the article.

“You want to help students, that’s great,” Jon Bramnick said, according to the article. “But if you want to pay for everything — 100 (percent) — I think your average working person will say, ‘Hey look, I’m willing to help, but why 100 (percent)?’ Those are the kind of programs, I think, that will create a problem for the state.”

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