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NJ.COM: Need Money for College? Here Are Ways the State Can Help.
9/22/2022 | General
By Tina Kelley | NJ Advance Media for

Do you think college is beyond your reach, or a certificate in a growth field is too expensive?

In a forum Wednesday sponsored by the Center for Cooperative Media, the head of the state’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, David Socolow, outlined various ways to get ahead with the help of state grants, scholarships, or loans. They contribute to the state’s goal of ensuring that 65% of adults ages 25 to 64 have a high-quality degree or credential after high school by 2025.


I need training for a good job.

Thanks to donations totaling $5 million from eight companies and $7.5 million in state funds, the Pay it Forward revolving loan fund pays for job training that is often not fully funded by other financial aid.

Socolow called the program ground-breaking. “We believe future private sector companies will say I want to put my philanthropic dollars into this,” he said.

Low-income residents can be trained in cyber-security at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, nursing at Hudson County Community College, or in clean energy jobs like welding and HVAC positions at Camden County Community College.

They receive no-interest loans to cover the training, and they pay back a small percentage of their income, with no interest building up and no payments due during periods of unemployment. The bulk of the loan is forgiven after five years of consistent repayment efforts.

“If they don’t succeed, they don’t owe anything, but if they get a good job, they get an affordable repayment plan, and the debt never grows,” he said.


I want to go to community college tuition-free.

Since 2019, for families with income up to $65,000, the Community College Opportunity Grant covers tuition and mandatory standard fees. About 40% of students in the state’s 18 community colleges meet that cutoff. The state provides whatever is not covered by federal Pell grants and other aid. Students in families earning $65,000 to $80,000 pay half tuition. Between 12,000 and 13,000 students receive these grants a year at a cost to the state of $27 million.


I want to attend a four-year public college or university in New Jersey.

Starting this fall, the New Jersey Garden State Guarantee provides eligible community college graduates tuition for their third and fourth years, to receive a bachelor’s degree. It’s free for students whose families make up to $65,000, who make up about 45% of students at state colleges and universities. College is effectively half-price for students with families earning $65,000-$80,000, meaning almost two-thirds of students receive some Garden State Guarantee aid.

In addition, Rutgers’ Scarlet Promise program provides tuition discounts for families earning $80,000 to $100,000. And each year, the Educational Opportunity Fund program provides funding and services for 13,000 full- and part-time students with significant financial and educational needs.


I need other grants and scholarships to attend college in New Jersey.

The state’s Tuition Aid Grant program gives grants for tuition worth thousands of dollars to eligible families attending two- and four-year schools in the state. The program reaches about 80,000 students a year. The New Jersey STARS merit program provides funding to students in the top 15% of their high school class, and the Governor’s Urban Scholarships are available to students in the top 5% of their classes, in 33 communities.


I can afford to attend school only part-time.

Part-time students taking at least six credits per semester are eligible for the Community College Opportunity Grant. Thomas Edison State University is dedicated mostly to programs for adults, and under the 2023 budget, need-based state aid is available to part-time students there. The Educational Opportunity Fund program is an option for some part-time students.


I maxed out my federal student loans but need more for tuition.

For students whose tuition exceeds the annual federal student loan caps, the state’s NJCLASS loans offer lower interest rates than the federal government’s Parent PLUS supplemental loans. Certain NJCLASS loans carry a 3.75% interest rate, compared to 7.54% on a Parent PLUS loan. Families must make at least $40,000 a year and have at least a 670 credit score to qualify. Tax-free bonds, not taxpayer money, support the loan program, and New Jersey students who attend school out of state are eligible.

I’m in a profession the state needs, and I need help paying back my student loans.

Through loan redemption programs, New Jersey will pay off a certain number of years of student debt for eligible doctors, nurses in high-need areas, nursing faculty, social workers, pediatric psychologists and psychiatrists, and teachers in high-need fields or school districts.


I earned some college credits ages ago and want to finish a degree.

This year, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education’s budget includes a $3 million “Some College, No Degree” program to find, recruit, support, and mentor approximately 800,000 state residents who want to return to college.

“They may have barriers, like what their status may be with the school they left, and, frankly, their concerns about whatever it was that may have been challenging them when they stopped out,” Socolow said, preferring that term to the more permanent “dropped out.” “They stop, and they come back.”

My immigration status is undocumented, and I want to go to college.

Federal financial aid is not available for people with undocumented immigrant status, but they can fill out a state alternate application for financial aid. College aid is available to eligible undocumented people who went to a New Jersey high school for at least three years, graduated, and still live in the state. They qualify for the Community College Opportunity Grant and Garden State Guarantee if their families earn less than certain amounts.

I want to start saving for my kids to go to college.

The NJ BEST 529 College Savings Plans help families save for college without being taxed by the state or federal governments on the interest such accounts accrue. Thanks to the College Affordability Act of 2021, for families with income under $75,000, the state will match their first 529 contribution up to $750. In addition, contributions to 529s are deductible when computing state income tax. Students with 529s get a one-time $3,000 scholarship if they go to a college in-state.