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Cunningham Bill To Revise NJ STARS Advances

Sandra Bolden Cunningham (D-Hudson)

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham that would revise the NJ STARS and NJ STARS II programs was approved unanimously today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

“NJ STARS and NJ STARS II provide many of New Jersey’s highest performing students with the ability to attend college. The programs particularly benefit those who, due to the rising costs of tuition, may previously have been unable to afford to attend,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Since post-high school education is becoming increasingly necessary for our residents to compete in a global marketplace, New Jersey must continue to invest in the higher education of our students. By revising these programs, we can ensure that the students are prepared for the workforce while keeping their talent and skills in New Jersey.”

The bill, S-874, revises the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) program to cover the costs of tuition at one of New Jersey’s 19 county colleges for New Jersey students who rank in the top 15 percent of their high school graduating class. Previously the program covered both the cost of tuition and fees. According to the NJ Council of County Colleges, the average yearly tuition cost for a New Jersey county college is just under $3,000.

The bill would also revise the NJ STARS II Program – which provides additional scholarships to NJ STARS students who have completed an associate’s degree with a 3.25 GPA or higher at a county college to continue their education at a New Jersey four-year college or institution by:

 Expanding the program to allow for students to attend either one of New Jersey’s public universities or one of New Jersey’s independent four-year institutions including for-profit institutions;

 Eliminating the provision of the program that calculates scholarship amount based on the student’s GPA and instead providing a scholarship of $1,250 per semester for all NJ STARS students who maintained a 3.25 GPA or higher during their tenure at a New Jersey county college;

 Providing that 100 percent of the scholarship amount – $1,250 per semester – would be paid for by the state rather than 50 percent by the state and 50 percent by the attending school – as previously administered; and

 Encouraging county colleges to host annual recruitment days and to invite representatives from New Jersey’s public and independent colleges and institutions to recruit students for the NJ STARS II Program.

The bill includes two grandfather provisions. For students graduating from high school prior to 2010, the NJ STARS Program would continue to cover both tuition and fees at a New Jersey county college. Additionally, the bill also grandfathers in third year NJ STARS II students, so that will receive scholarship funds in accordance with the current law – either $6,000 or $7,000 per year depending upon their GPA.

“Changes in these programs are necessary to ensure their sustainability for years to come,” Senator Cunningham said. “With close collaboration with New Jersey’s colleges and universities, we have made revisions to the programs to reduce their overall cost to both the state and to the schools, while continuing to provide scholarships and funding for New Jersey’s students.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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