Bills that grant veterans and servicemembers easier access to higher education, expand access to the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption and establish an annual grant program within the Troops to College Program to recognize institutions of higher education that offer extensive veteran programs and services, were signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday.
Murphy said the decision to sign the bills was an easy call.
“Our veterans and servicemembers have put their lives on the line for their state and for their country,” he said. “The least we can do for them is to make their lives easier by expanding access to higher education, broadening eligibility for the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption and encouraging higher education institutions to provide needed services. This legislation will doubtlessly help our veterans and servicemembers in their civilian lives and recognize their service properly.”
The bill are as follows:
- S278 broadens the scope of existing law to benefit a wider military community that includes servicemembers who are unable to complete a course due to deployment, mobilization, reassignment or other military obligation. The bill directs each public institution of higher education to establish policies and procedures to refund course tuition and fees and permit the late registration of students who are veterans or servicemembers affected by deployment, mobilization, reassignment or other military obligation. Under the bill, the institution cannot charge a late fee or similar penalty on a registration submitted pursuant to the bill’s provisions.
- S956 exempts from property taxes totally and permanently disabled veterans and their surviving spouses who occupy a unit in a cooperative or mutual housing corporation in which they are tenant shareholders. The bill requires the Division of Taxation to promulgate the necessary implementing regulations, which will include provisions that would require cooperatives and mutual housing corporations to pass the full amount of the property tax exemption on to the tenant shareholder who qualified for the benefit.
- S961 creates an annual grant program within the Troops to College Program. The grant program will be developed by the secretary of higher education in consultation with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The secretary will annually select up to three institutions of higher education, public or private, to receive a $150,000 Troops to College Grant. In order to receive a grant, an institution must demonstrate that it is offering a comprehensive array of services, benefits, and programs to veterans attending the institution.
Brig. Gen. Lisa Hou, the adjutant general and commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said the bills affirm New Jersey’s commitment to our veterans.
“One bill will provide grants to institutions of higher education that assist veterans with programs and services,” she said. “Tenant shareholders in cooperatives and mutual housing corporations can finally use the property tax exemption that homeowners have used for years. Uniformed service members attending public colleges now have additional rights, such as extended registration time each semester, so they can continue their education while fulfilling their military obligations.”