Guaranteeing the ‘Promise’ of College: New Jersey’s 2022 Budget Prioritizes College Affordability and Degree Attainment
By Dr. Brian K. Bridges, NJ Secretary of Higher Education & Nicole Kirgan, NJ OSHE Director of Communications
Amid a global pandemic fraught with economic and fiscal uncertainty, it can be challenging to prioritize public investment. In New Jersey, at a time when families face significant financial and emotional stress, Governor Phil Murphy stayed true to his promise of expanding access to an affordable, equitable postsecondary education. This summer, Governor Murphy signed the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Act that included monumental investments in higher education to help support the State’s inclusive economic recovery and invest in those aspiring to change their lives by earning a postsecondary credential.
Governor Murphy and the legislature worked to provide relief for families through a historic college affordability package. The millions of dollars allocated to higher education will ensure that students from low-income backgrounds receive the aid and wraparound services they need to save for, enter, succeed, and complete their postsecondary education. The investments include:
- $50 million to introduce the Garden State Guarantee (GSG), which provides two years of free tuition at four-year public institutions
- $7 million increase to the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) and continued funding of the Student Success Incentive institutional awards
- $4.7 million increase to the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), which will help serve nearly 2,000 additional students
- $35 million increase (for a total of $473 million) for the State’s Tuition Aid Grant (TAG), which will help more than 70,000 eligible students receiving need-based financial aid
- $10 million for State grants to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 to match individual contributions to open a new NJBEST 529 college savings account
- Tax deductions for those with incomes up to $200,000 who are saving for college or repaying student loans
The CCOG program allows all eligible New Jersey students with family incomes under $65,000 to attend any public community college in the state tuition-free for at least two years, and the GSG program will complete the NJ promise package by creating a pathway to a four-year free-college program (2+2) by providing support for years three and four. Students will be able to participate in the program at any of New Jersey’s 18 community colleges and 13 senior public institutions.
The state plan for higher education, released in spring 2019, included a commitment that every student in New Jersey should have affordable and predictable education costs. The Murphy Administration’s commitment began with a “down payment” on free community college made permanent through legislation in February 2021 due to statewide support and successful student outcomes. CCOG is one of the most inclusive statewide promise programs, allowing part-time students and adult learners to participate. The expansion of the program to include four-year institutions with similar eligibility requirements provides a clear statewide message that college is affordable and attainable. This New Jersey College Promise package offers students choices to pursue pathways that work for them, by selecting from multiple program initiatives with one main goal: to help students gain access to and succeed in obtaining a college degree or credential of value that will help launch their career.
Through these monumental public investments in higher education, the State is working to expand opportunities to families who would not have the chance to attend college otherwise. Attainment rates pre-pandemic demonstrated that: Hispanic (28%) and African-American (35%) students were earning degrees at a fraction of the rate of White students (57%). New Jersey’s College Promise package would help bridge these gaps by providing low-income families and those from underrepresented backgrounds with equitable opportunities to pursue and obtain a degree that can change their life trajectory.
In order to emerge from the pandemic as a stronger and fairer state, we must ensure an equitable economic rebound takes every family into account – and that’s exactly what the CCOG + GSG package does by prioritizing students with the greatest need. During a time of tremendous change and unpredictability, the State’s recommitment to fund a college education for those with the greatest need is a clear investment in the postsecondary dreams of its citizens, who will fuel the Garden State’s short- and long-term economic recovery. For College Promise programs to be successful, they must be supported, even at uncertain, volatile times, and in New Jersey, the State is making sure this transformative opportunity is available to all residents, regardless of life circumstances.
For more information on New Jersey’s FY2022 college affordability commitments, visit: https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562021/20210629b.shtml.