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NJ Lawmakers Have Reservations About Murphy's Free Community College Proposal

Acting Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis at Senate Budget Committee hearing

New Jersey lawmakers have some concerns about the $50 million Governor Murphy wants for a multi-year program to make community college tuition-free.

says that funding would help about 15,000 students who don’t have state and federal grants to cover the costs of attending community college.

“I think the idea is particularly for people that are adults who are coming back, who might not have been just coming straight from high school, who could use training, they would be eligible. And that students who might not otherwise go to college would be kind of encouraged to attend college because of this.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney isn’t convinced the program that could eventually cost $200 million is the way to go.

“Would we be better served funding programs that exist today and would we be better served by increasing funding to county colleges rather than creating a new program?”

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo believes there should be some stipulations for students who would participate in the program.

“You need to be out of pocket a little bit even if it’s a payback over time or a loan. You need to have some incentives to stay there, work hard. It needs to be tied to achievements, the metrics of how well you do as a student, your GPA.”

Sarlo says it’s uncertain if lawmakers will go along with retaining money in the budget for that program.