Why families should talk about college tuition
Why families should talk about college tuition.
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A new financial aid package that kicks in this fall may make Rutgers University-New Brunswick free for New Jersey residents who are full-time undergraduate students with family incomes below $65,000.
The program will also provide a sliding scale that may decrease out-of-pocket tuition and fees for students from New Jersey with family incomes below $100,000.
In all, the university said, about 7,600 students will benefit from the aid provided through the Scarlet Guarantee, a “last-dollar” program that covers tuition and fees for qualifying first- and second-year students. The program also bridges a statewide program called the Garden State Guarantee, which offers the same relief to third- and fourth-year students.
The Scarlet Guarantee is available only to students attending Rutgers-New Brunswick; Similar programmes, called “Bridging the Gap” and “R-UN to the top,” already exist at the university’s other two campuses in Camden and Newark, respectively. The New Brunswick campus did not have a similar program until the Scarlet Guarantee, which was rolled out to attract and retain the high-caliber students who are admitted to the campus’s undergraduate programs, while also expanding the income tier for students who will benefit to $100,000. , said Chancellor-Provost Francine Conway. The state’s Garden State Guarantee caps at an aggregate gross income of $80,000.
“The criteria to get admitted to NB is strong academics, and those students who have strong academics were competitive for other universities and would just leave because we didn’t have a way of supporting them. This gives us an opportunity to retain those students. New Jersey is a very talented place when it comes to students,” Conway said.
For a 19-year-old Bayonne resident and first-year student Des Walker, the two programs together could mean a tuition-free education down to that last dollar until she graduates in 2026. Walker said she is an aspiring playwright majoring in journalism and media studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, and the first in her family to attend a four-year college.
“Honestly, I’m excited because I feel like a lot of worry students. They want to pursue [higher] education but they don’t see the economic value of it,” Walker said. “I personally don’t want to spend a large portion of my life paying back for a degree I got a very long time ago,” she said.
A supervisor where she works, at the student accounting and registration services department at the university, informed Walker that she had qualified for the aid package.
“I think this will take a lot of the stress off having to worry about finance. That’s certainly something that everyone hopes about,” said Walker, who took out a federal loan to pay a portion of her outstanding term bill. Walker has paid for her education so far with aid from state and federal grants, a merit-based scholarship, funds from family and money she has earned as a work-study student.
Walker said she is hopeful the Scarlet Guarantee program will release her from the loan she took out.
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The Murphy administration assigned $50 million in the 2022 budget to the Garden State Guarantee as part of a comprehensive college affordability package that was signed into law last summer, said Nicole Kirgan, a spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.
The Garden State Guarantee is a statewide program that covers tuition and fees for full-time students in their third and fourth years pursuing undergraduate degrees at any of the state’s 11 public higher-education institutions. It will be first implemented during the 2022-23 academic year.
“GSG is one of the first postsecondary programs in the nation that provides a statewide promise package that bridges two- and four-year promise programs,” Kirgan said. The program also benefits students who transfer to one of the public four-year universities from two-year community colleges.
The Scarlet Guarantee program is modeled after the Garden State Guarantee. The income cap for students with aggregate gross incomes below $65,000 pay zero tuition and fees; Students with incomes between $65,000 and $100,000 can receive tuition relief calculated on a sliding scale.
Aggregate gross income refers to taxable income and is calculated after certain deductions, such as for health savings.
Walker applied for federal aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Students who submit FAFSAs are automatically considered for the Scarlet Guarantee, and so are students who qualify as Dreamers and fill out the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application, which is available to certain undocumented students who have attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years, or have a high school diploma and show proof of intent to apply for legal immigration status.
For Walker, who is Black, queer and low-income, programs like the Scarlet Guarantee definitively “shape the way” because of how she and people like her need them, she said.
“People within my identity and similar, we definitely don’t have a lot of resources. And even if there are resources, we can’t afford them because of our identity, so I feel like a lot of students can benefit from this,” Walker said.
“I see this as a way of extending our commitment to make it a little easier for students to get an education,” Conway said, noting that she was a first-generation college student herself and from a limited-income, underrepresented background when she enrolled for her first degree, a bachelor’s, at Cornell University in 1986.
By the numbers
In combination with the Garden State Guarantee, the Scarlet Guarantee will provide the following coverage for undergraduate students for four years:
- Adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less: full annual tuition and mandatory fees.
- Adjusted gross income of $65,001 to $80,000: Students will pay no more than $3,000 per year toward tuition and mandatory fees.
- Adjusted gross income of $80,001 to $100,000: Students will pay no more than $5,000 per year toward tuition and mandatory fees.
The $24 million program is a partnership between Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the state, with New Jersey contributing $10 million.
Mary Ann Koruth covers education for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about New Jersey’s schools and how it affects your children, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.