Turner Legislation Easing Cost Of Higher Education Clears Committee

Bills Would Provide Tax Credit, Establish Textbook Rental Programs

TRENTON – Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D – Mercer, Hunterdon) that would help ease the cost of higher education by establishing tax credits and textbook rental programs have cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee.

“The cost of higher education in New Jersey can create a terrible burden on middle class and moderate income people,” said Turner. “It is especially taxing on our young people, who graduate from college saddled with thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. Many can’t find work and those who do struggle to make enough to pay off their loans. We have to look for more creative ways to not only make higher education in this state more affordable, but to also keep our best and brightest right here in New Jersey.”

The first bill, S1142, would aid individuals looking to pursue post-secondary education by establishing a gross income tax credit that would equal 10% of tuition costs for up to $10,000. The maximum credit would be $1,000. The credit would be available specifically to residents of New Jersey making less than $150,000 a year who are either a full time student at a New Jersey four-year institution of higher education, a New Jersey county college, or an accredited post-secondary business, technical, trade or vocational school in New Jersey, or have paid half or more of the tuition for a dependent under the age of 22.

Currently, tuition and fees for New Jersey state college students exceed the national average by 46 percent. The College Board relates in its “Trends in College Pricing 2011” report that the national average cost of in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges is $8,244 for academic year 2011-2012. The New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education conveys that the equivalent average for New Jersey senior public colleges is $12,077.

The second bill, S1369, would authorize public institutions of higher education to establish a textbook rental program for the students at each of the institution’s campuses. Under the bill, for any rental program established the average annual textbook rental cost for full-time students could not exceed 50% of the average annual retail purchase cost of textbooks for full-time students. The program would not limit the rights of faculty to select appropriate texts in accordance with established campus policies and procedures.

“The prices that are charged for textbooks are, frankly, ridiculous. Students should not be required to purchase books at excruciatingly high prices when it is part of their learning curriculum. A rental program can help ease the pain while at the same time not interfering with how teachers and professors instruct their course,” said Turner.

As the cost of attending public institutions of higher education continues to increase, many New Jersey students and their families find it difficult to afford the textbooks that students are required to purchase for college courses. As it is critical that each student have access to all required textbooks, the establishment of textbook rental programs would help promote equity and opportunity for all students while providing a viable economic alternative to the high costs of purchasing textbooks.

S1142 now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. S1369 heads to the Senate floor.