State moves to make more aid available for low-income students to take summer classes

In a moment that could be a win-win for both low-income students and higher education students, Gov. Phil Murphy last week signed a bill that would provide additional Tuition Aid Grants for eligible students to take summer courses this year.

Higher education institutions have long searched for ways to bring students on campus during the summer session – after all, the facilities and faculty are still there, it’s just the majority of the students who leave.

The bill is part of a greater movement by the state to increase college access. It is estimated that these additional grants will benefit nearly 10,000 students.

Legislative sponsors of the bill include Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Maplewood), who is chair of the Assembly Higher Education committee. Other sponsors include Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) and Assembly members Linda Carter (D-Plainfield), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton) and Reginald Atkins (D-Roselle).

Ruiz, who has made education a key issue, said the bill has the potential to have a great impact on graduation rates.

“The TAG Program has been a tremendous resource and key piece of financial aid for many students across the state,” she said. “This legislation will expand the program to support this year’s summer sessions, allowing students to get ahead on their course load or stay on track to graduate.

“Encouraging students to take advantage of summer classes and explore ways to graduate early will be an integral piece as we continue looking for creative ways to make higher education more accessible and affordable.”

Since 2019, more than 56,000 eligible students have received help in progressing toward their associate degrees with support from Community College Opportunity Grants – the first part of the NJ College Promise.

The Garden State Guarantee – which comprises the second part of the New Jersey College Promise by offering financial aid to students in their third and fourth years at a New Jersey public college or university if they decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree – is currently supporting more than 14,000 eligible students in its inaugural year.

“Expanding the tuition aid grant program, known as TAG, to cover the 2023 summer session will make a tremendous difference for so many New Jersey students and their families,” Jasey said.

“In keeping with our efforts to make college more accessible and affordable, this will enable 10,000 low to moderate-income students in New Jersey to take advantage of summer courses.

“Utilizing unexpended funds to finance summer TAG will help promote faster graduation with less debt.”