Extends Tuition Benefits Eligibility for Spouses of Public Safety Workers Killed in Line of Duty
TRENTON – A bill 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 was approved today by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“Following the loss of a loved one, a family may struggle with the immediate challenges of stabilizing their finances or ensuring the continuity of health and child care coverage. Imposing an arbitrary time limit on the higher education benefit could pose an additional hardship on surviving spouses, even preventing some from utilizing the program altogether,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “Eliminating the limitation is the right thing to do. It will better ensure those who wish to use the benefit can pursue a higher education regardless of when they are prepared to begin the process.”
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 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. This bill (S-456) eliminates the eligibility time limit on spouses.
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.