Some New Jersey college students who qualify for financial aid will receive more money in their award packages from the state this year.
The state budget allocated $478 million in funding for tuition aid grants, known as TAG, for low- and moderate-income college students for the 2022-2023 school year, state officials said. That's an increase of $5 million over last year and will result in bigger TAG awards for many students.However, the increases are coming as tuition is going up at nearly all of New Jersey's four-year colleges and universities.Students who qualify for TAG grants to help pay their tuition will receive 3% more than last year, according to officials at the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, the state agency known as HESAA that approved the award increases over the summer.
"Expanding access to higher education by reducing financial barriers for students opens the door to countless opportunities they may not have otherwise had," Gov. Phil Murphy said when the award increases were announced.
The state also used the extra funding to adjust eligibility criteria, meaning more students who have "significant financial need" will get grants, HESAA officials said.
The tuition grants will vary based on various factors, including students' family income and which school they attend.
Under the new state TAG award table for undergraduates:
TAG grants are usually one piece of a New Jersey student's financial aid package. Students can add to their totals with federal aid, including Pell grants. They can also win scholarships, apply for grants directly from their colleges or outside groups and qualify for state or federal loans.
The state aid increases for New Jersey students come as many critics say federal officials and state governments are not doing enough to hold down ever-increasing tuition costs. President Joe Biden recently announced some student loan debt could be forgiven for certain borrowers.New Jersey's traditional four-year colleges and universities increased tuition by an average of 3% this year, according to an NJ Advance Media analysis of data provided by the schools.Seton Hall, a private Catholic institution based in South Orange, increased tuition and fees 4.4% this year, the largest increase among the state's traditional four-year colleges. Without financial aid or merit aid, students will have to pay $48,960 in annual tuition and fees.However, Seton Hall officials said they also increased aid to students, handing out a record-high $158 million in scholarships.Rutgers, the state's largest university, will charge $16,263 a year in tuition and fees this year on its New Brunswick-Piscataway campus, or 2.9% more than last year. Students on the Camden and Newark campuses will pay slightly less.Those totals do not include room, board, books, transportation and other costs that can add another $10,000 to $20,000 more to the total bill for some students at area colleges.Other schools, including Bloomfield College and Saint Elizabeth University, didn't increase tuition this fall. Both schools said they froze costs due to families' financial hardship from inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.The state's funding increase for TAG grants and other new college aid programs is "groundbreaking," David Socolow, executive director of HESAA, said in a statement.The agency will use the additional funds from the state to "make college more affordable and help students close the funding gap to achieve their academic and career goals," Socolow added.The state budget also increases funding for the Community College Opportunity Grant program, known as CCOG, which provide additional tuition help for New Jerseyans to attend one of the state's community colleges.The budget increases the CCOG grant funding by $8 million, officials said. With the additional funds, community college students from families with adjusted gross incomes between $65,001 and $80,000 are now eligible for grants that cover nearly half the cost of tuition.Students with family adjusted gross incomes of $65,000 and under will continue to be eligible to attend community college tuition-free in New Jersey.About 7,000 more students will now be eligible for CCOG grants due to the change in income limits, state officials said. In total, more than 20,000 students are expected to receive community college grants this year.The budget also increases the Governor's Urban Scholarship program, known as GUS, by $150,000. Eligible New Jersey students who live in one of the 33 designated high-need communities can receive awards of $1,000 per year."The increased funding in this year's budget represents my administration's ongoing commitment to supporting equitable access to high-quality education for all New Jerseyans," Murphy said in the statement.