TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators John H. Adler and Shirley K. Turner which would amend the laws that created the NJ STARS I and II programs to provide a military services exemption for NJ STARS scholarship recipients who are called to active duty was unanimously approved today by the Senate Education Committee.
“The NJ STARS I and II programs were created to help give some of New Jersey’s best students the chance to attend a two year and a four year university for free,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “It is incredibly unfair to penalize students who are in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line, simply because of a technicality in the legislation. By amending the law, we would be giving these brave men and women the chance to obtain a bachelors degree, while thanking them for their military service at the same time.”
“This legislation would work to ensure that the State of New Jersey honors its service members who are called into active duty while matriculating,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer, who chairs the Senate Education Panel. “As they work to ensure our freedom, we must also work to protect their educational opportunities here at home.”
The New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) program enables students who graduate in the top 20% of their high school class to attend any of the State’s community colleges free of charge. The law was amended to expand the program to offer the scholarship to “NJ STARS” scholars who finish their first year of college with a GPA of 3.0 or above, not just those in the top 20% of their class.
NJ STARS II allows any county college student who has earned an Associate’s degree through the NJ STARS program, and maintained at least a 3.0 GPA to receive a $2,000 per semester scholarship to the public four-year New Jersey college of his or her choice. The participating college or university then covers the remainder of the cost of tuition and fees. County college credits are fully transferable, allowing the students to begin at the four-year institution as juniors. Students are able to receive any State and Federal need-based grants and merit scholarships to which they are entitled.
Under current law, in order to be eligible for either of the NJ STARS programs, students must maintain continuous, full-time enrollment.
The Senators’ bill, S-2956, would allow students who are enrolled in either the NJ STARS I or NJ STARS II programs and are called to active duty as a member of the military to maintain the scholarship, and resume matriculating once the tour of duty ends.
This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.