NJ tuition-free community college program expands

Steve Tawa
May 23, 2019 - 4:59 pm
 Gov. Phil Murphy

Amy Newman/NorthJersey.com via USA Today Network

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy visited Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel to talk about expanding tuition-free community college for thousands of students throughout the state.

24-year-old Erin Finter of Medford, who is going into her second year at Rowan, says after high school, college affordability "became a real struggle."

"I did not quality for financial aid and was faced with going into substantial debt to attend college. But, I was motivated to get an education, and starting working and attending school," she said. 

Now, the Community College Opportunity Grant program, which started at 13 community colleges this year, was scaled up this month and is now currently covering all 19 county colleges in New Jersey, including RCBC. 

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Murphy was delighted to hear that now Erin can concentrate on academics and graduate from Rowan's Paralegal Program next year.

"This is a last dollar aid program, so the students have to prove that they have exhausted all other sources of financial aid," Murphy said. 

The governor says ramping it up to all 19 colleges removes barriers to students' education progress. 

"So, in our proposed budget, not for this year but next year, we have proposed $58.5 million to cover not 13,000, but 18,000 students," he said. 

Rowan is the first community college in the region to offer a "3+1" program to reduce the total cost of a bachelor's degree to less than what most universities charge for a single year. The new grant adds a new variable to make it "free plus one."

The six schools joining the program are Brookdale Community College, County College of Morris, Essex County College, Raritan Valley Community College, Rowan College at Burlington County and Sussex County Community College.