Governor calls on NJ Legislature to double funding for community college program

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today called on the state legislature to increase funding for the Community College Opportunity Grant program so more students can attend county colleges for the next academic year without getting into debt.

The program enabes low- and moderate-income students to attend county colleges for free. The program covers any balance of tuition and approved educational fees that remain after accounting for all other grants and scholarships that an eligible student receives. To be eligible in spring 2019, students had to be enrolled at least half-time, had to have an adjusted gross income of less than $45,000, and had tuition and covered fees that exceeded Pell Grant, Tuition Assistance Grant, and other grants and scholarships for which they qualified.

In the fiscal year 2019 enacted budget, the governor and the legislature appropriated $20 million toward tuition and fee assistance for students through the grant program. Murphy recommended funding of $58.5 million in the fiscal year 2020 budget in order to expand the program to both the fall and spring semesters. But the state legislature appropriated $25 million to the program. He wants the legislature to double the amount and increase the income cap for students to $65,000. 

“Making community college free this past semester was a game changer for the students, for their communities, and for the State,” Murphy said. “If we are serious about continuing our investment in our residents, it is critical that we fully fund this grant in order to ensure that every individual has a chance to succeed.”

New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis said this spring she has been hearing the stories of students who benefited from the grant program. “I heard from students who had to take on three jobs to pay their expenses. I heard from single parents who supported their children while studying for exams,” she said. “The Community College Opportunity Grant enabled these students to stay in college. Those students are more likely to graduate and thereby repay the state’s investment. However, the only way to deliver on this commitment is to adequately fund the program.”

The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority are jointly administering the program. To learn more about the Community College Opportunity Grant, visit the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority website