The New Jersey Senate has passed two bills sponsored by Senator Robert Singer to support incoming New Jersey college students.
Sen. Robert Singer’s bills establish new State scholarship programs and provide high school students with instruction on student loans. (SenateNJ.com)
The first bill, S-991, would replace the NJ STARS and NJ STARS II State-funded scholarship programs with the New Jersey Scholarship Honors Program. Currently, NJ STARS II scholarships are only available to students who graduate from a county college with at least a 3.25 GPA. The new program created by S-991 would extend the scholarship award to high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class who wish to attend a four-year in-state college. The bill was amended to include students who attend private colleges. Eligible students would receive an award of $4,000 per year.
“Our goal with this legislation is to encourage New Jersey’s best and brightest to pursue a high-quality college education,” Senator Singer Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean) said. “A high school student who graduates in the top 10 percent of their class has demonstrated that they can succeed at any college of their choice – public or private; four-year or two-year. They should be able to take advantage of that hard-earned opportunity.”
Currently, only those that graduate in the top 15 percent of their class are eligible for NJ STARS, which provides full-tuition scholarships at any New Jersey county college. Under the new program, students who graduate in the top 20 percent of their high school class would be eligible for a scholarship of the same amount as allotted to current NJ STARS students.
Sen. Singer’s second bill, S-990, would add instruction on student loans, including debt repayment, as a high school graduation requirement.
S-990 would require the State Board of Education to add this instruction as a graduation requirement, beginning with the 2017-2018 graduating class. The instruction, which will fall under the current financial literacy course requirement, must also incorporate issues associated with student loan debt, the requirements for repayment of that debt, and the consequences of the failure to repay it in a timely manner.
“Far too many young people don’t understand the process of applying for and paying back student loans until after they’ve already signed the contract,” Senator Singer said. “Understanding how the financial aid process works is not an education you should get on the fly. Until we provide high schoolers with this instruction, many will continue to miss out on invaluable scholarship opportunities or pay much more for an education doesn’t match their investment.”
Under S-990, Students would also be required to meet with a guidance counselor during their sophomore or junior year to discuss State and federal tuition assistance programs, including grants, scholarships and loans they may be eligible for. The guidance counselor would also cover ways to reduce the cost of higher education, such as options for earning college credit while still in high school.
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