CCOG Program to Provide ‘Last Dollar’ Aid to County College Students Clears Committee

Trenton Legislation codifying the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) Program that has been included in the annual state budget since FY2019 advanced out of the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“County colleges have long played a vital role in educating students from thousands of working class families across New Jersey. Through this program that provides ‘last-dollar’ financial aid to eligible students, we will make sure they have every opportunity to graduate and fulfill their academic dreams,” said Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), sponsor of the bill and chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

The bill, S-2743, codifies the county college initiative first launched by Governor Phil Murphy in September 2018, providing parameters for eligibility as well as direction in the funding of specific initiatives.

Many students who attend county colleges – including independent, adult students — rely on grants, and scholarships from a variety of sources in order to complete their education. The purpose of the CCOG ‘last dollar’ program is to provide one more layer of financial stability. Under the bill, the program will pay any outstanding costs of tuition and approved educational fees that are not already covered by other State, federal and institutional grants and scholarships for which a grant recipient is eligible.

To be eligible, the student must have an annual adjusted income between $0 and $65,000 and already must have applied for all other forms of financial aid that is available at the State or federal level, or the through the college in question. In general, students would be eligible for a grant under the program for up to five semesters.

The bill would also direct the Legislature to annually appropriate monies to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) to distribute Student Success Incentive funding to each county college for outreach and student support initiatives, such as establishing mentorship programs or hosting events to assist students and families in completing financial aid applications. The legislation allows 5% of program funding to be used by OSHE for grant administration and promotion.

The bill was released from the Senate Higher Education Committee by a vote of 4-0.