NEW JERSEY – Fulfilling his promise to make tuition-free community college a reality, Governor Phil Murphy Friday signed A4410, permanently establishing the Community College Opportunity Grant Program (CCOG), which will allow qualified students to attend any New Jersey community college without tuition or educational fees.
“For far too long, higher education has been out of reach for countless New Jerseyans due to its high cost,” Murphy said. “Today’s bill signing underscores our continued commitment to college affordability, ensuring that our young people and working adults have the opportunity to earn post-secondary degrees and advance their promising careers.”
“Today represents a huge win for college affordability and a transformative moment in our state’s history. In the years to come, CCOG will continue offering thousands more eligible students equitable access to a college education for free,” said Dr. Brian Bridges, Secretary of Higher Education. “To emerge stronger and fairer from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are investing in future generations today by expanding affordable options to ensure students’ lifelong success.”
“New Jersey now sends a clear message: county college is tuition-free for students with family incomes of $65,000 or below,” said David Socolow, Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA). “Governor Murphy has enabled HESAA to back up that promise by filling students’ remaining financial aid gaps with more than 25,000 Community College Opportunity Grants since the spring 2019 semester. The impact of this commitment reaches still further, by making an up-front, tuition-free price guarantee that enables tens of thousands of additional students to focus on their postsecondary education without concern about paying the tuition sticker price. Many students can now consider enrolling in college with full confidence that their entire county college tuition will be covered by the State of New Jersey. By raising awareness that college is more affordable, we can encourage more students to pursue courses of study that will enhance their lives and careers here in the Garden State.”
CCOG, which will be administered by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), will provide last-dollar grants to eligible county college students for those tuition costs and fees not already covered by any other State, federal, and institutional need-based grants and merit scholarships. Students with adjusted gross incomes of $65,000 or less will be eligible to receive this financial grant for a total of five (5) semesters. This legislation also directs the Legislature to appropriate funding for the “Student Success Incentive” to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, for distribution to each county college. This funding will be used to support outreach and student success initiatives to further the goals of the CCOG grant program.
Since taking office, the Murphy Administration has taken meaningful steps toward tuition-free community college. The CCOG grant program was first enacted through budget language in the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations act. The grant program received a $20 million appropriation in Fiscal Year 2019 and a $25 million appropriation in Fiscal Year 2020. The appropriation to the grant program for the Fiscal Year 2020 three-month budget extension totaled $10 million and the appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations act for the nine-month period was also $10 million, making the total financial aid funding for that 12-month period $20 million. For the current Fiscal Year budget of 2022, the Governor has proposed $27 million to support the CCOG grant program.