Cunningham Bill To Revise NJ STARS Becomes Law

Senator Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, looks on as the Senate votes on legislation.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham that revises the NJ STARS and NJ STARS II programs was signed into law today.

“Since the beginning of the economic downturn, families across new Jersey have had to tighten their belts and with the cost of higher education on the rise, have found it nearly impossible to pay for their children’s college. Programs such as NJ STARS and STARS II have been able to provide assistance for high-performing high school graduates throughout the state, making the dream of going to a college a reality, while keeping their skills and talents in New Jersey,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson, Chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “With the passage of this law, we are able to stabilize this program, by reducing the overall costs to both the state and New Jersey’s colleges and universities, while continuing to provide scholarships and funding to New Jersey’s students.”

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

The bill was unanimously approved by both the State Senate and the General Assembly in March.

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