Tuition Benefits for Spouses of Public Safety Workers Killed in Line of Duty
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden to improve higher education opportunities for the surviving spouses of public safety workers, such as police officers and firefighters, killed in the line of duty has cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
Under current law, the children or surviving spouses of certain public safety workers who are killed in the performance of their duties may be eligible for a higher education tuition benefit. To be eligible, the child or spouse must be enrolled and in good standing at an undergraduate program in the state. The state will pay full tuition costs to a public institution of higher education and full or partial tuition costs to an independent institution of higher education. The current law limits eligibility to eight years following the death of the worker, in the case of a spouse, and eight years following high school graduation, in the case of a child.
The bill, S-376, would eliminate the requirement that spouses enroll within eight years of the death of the worker.
“Eliminating the time limit is the right thing to do. It will better ensure those who wish to use the benefit can pursue a higher education whenever they feel prepared to begin that journey,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “When a spouse passes away, a family may face immediate struggles with the challenges of stabilizing their finances or ensuring the continuity of health and child care coverage. Not to mention the mental struggle they will face. So imposing a strict time limit on the higher education benefit could pose an additional hardship on surviving spouses.”
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 13-0, and next heads to the Senate for further consideration.