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bberreski@njascu.org


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Communications & Public Affairs

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New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities

150 West State Street

Trenton, New Jersey 08608

609-989-1100 office


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If “Free College” Sounds Too Good to be True, That’s Because It Often Is
September 13, 2018

On the morning of September 13, 2018, New Jersey Secretary of the Office of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis gave a thoughtful and thorough summary to the NJ Assembly Higher Education Committee of the free community college pilot program being implemented at select community colleges in the Spring 2019 semester.

Before talking about the free college program, Secretary Smith Ellis emphasized the importance of her office completing a higher education master plan/vision – a process in which all sectors of higher education will have input and in which all comments about the free community-college initiative will be considered. Her comments before the NJ Assembly Higher Education Committee indicated a desire to make the initiative as simple as possible for the prospective student (addressing some of the problems discussed in the article below). She addressed only the pilot program (which does have an income restriction) and made no specific comment on the free-for-all (no income restriction) vision articulated by the governor during his campaign. The goal of the administration is to make the community colleges truly open-access educational vehicles – no barriers – going back to the founding principle of community college. She made no mention of the impact on four-year schools – private or public – and this has been an issue in other states. The members of the committee had several questions, most of them procedural, a few of them philosophical (specifically, the wisdom or lack of wisdom in providing a college program in which the student has no financial skin in the game.) But Assembly Committee chair Jasey promised to invite the Secretary back for further discussion once the pilot program is initiated this spring.

If ‘Free College’ Sounds Too Good to Be True, That’s Because It Often Is

www.NPR.org/Sections/Ed

September 12, 2018

 

To millions of parents and students, they’re magical words:  free college.

 

But is the idea pure fantasy?

 

More than a dozen states now offer grants, often called scholarships, promising to help qualifying students pay for some or all of their college education.  In fact, that word, “promise,” shows up again and again in these programs’ official names:  Nevada Promise, Oklahoma’s Promise, Oregon Promise, Tennessee Promise … you get the idea.

 

Sometimes referred to as “free college” programs, most are relatively new, sparked by the relentless rise in college costs and by a desire among state leaders to improve college access, especially for low-income students.  Hundreds more free college programs have popped up at the local level, too.  But a new review of 15 of these statewide programs, conducted by The Education Trust, finds that states vary widely in how they define both “free” and “college.”

 

“I mean, I get paid to do this,” laughs Katie Berger, a senior analyst at the nonprofit advocacy group, “and it was very challenging for me to understand the nuances in a lot of these programs … and if it’s hard for me to understand, I can’t imagine how challenging it is for low-income students and first-generation students to wrap their heads around this.”

 

To help measure and make sense of states’ free college efforts, Berger and The Education Trust used eight criteria, with a particular focus on equity.  None of the programs managed a perfect score.  Only one, in Washington, met seven of the criteria.  Berger says that’s because every free college program is a complex balance of priorities and costs.  “All of these choices represent trade-offs.  There is no truly universal, college-is-completely-free-for-everyone-ever [program].”



Supreme Court Upheld Presidential Travel Ban
June 26, 2018

On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Presidential Proclamation 9645 which imposed restrictions on the entry of citizens of eight countries into the United States (Chad was removed from the list in a revised Proclamation on April 10, 2018).

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) was one of the higher education associations that submitted an amicus brief in support of the state of Hawaii and in opposition to the Administration. Today, AASCU president Mildred Garcia issued a statement expressing regret about the Court’s decision.

We believe the ban and the Court’s ruling will continue to damage US standing overseas and further cement the perception that America is less welcoming to international students than it has historically been. The Proclamation – the third version of the travel ban – does include exceptions for international student and scholar visa categories for all but three of the countries listed (Syria, North Korea, and Somalia). In the case of Iranians, however, who represent the largest group of international students and scholars affected by this order, continued eligibility for “F,” “M,” and “J” visas will be conditioned upon unspecified “enhanced screening” which may serve as a de facto method of preventing their entry or re-entry into the United States.

DACA Update
June 21, 2018

Several higher education associations have banded together to form a powerful voice for DACA reform. The following is their letter to Congressman Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House.
________________________________________

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
June 20, 2018

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We write to express appreciation for the efforts being made in the House to provide a legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2018 and lift the cloud of uncertainty that Dreamers have been forced to live under since the September 2017 rescission of the DACA policy.

We believe this represents an opportunity to move the legislative process forward. It is imperative to protect Dreamers and provide a clear pathway to citizenship.
There are other critically important issues that are a part of this debate, including the urgent and heartbreaking issue of migrant children being separated from their parents when families are arrested at the border. As you act to prohibit that practice, we also urge you to decisively address DACA and provide immediate and long-term legal status for 1.8 million Dreamers.

For over a decade, we have advocated for a long-term legislative fix for the outstanding young individuals known as Dreamers. Last year, more than 800 college and university presidents urged lawmakers to take action to protect DACA registrants, as did nearly 80 higher education associations.

There is widespread bipartisan support for protecting these high-achieving and talented young people, and we urge you to forge a bipartisan solution to do so. We are grateful for the
continuing efforts of the members of Congress who have engaged in meaningful actions to move legislation forward that protects Dreamers, but we are not there yet.

We call on Congress to act immediately and effectively to address these urgent issues.

Sincerely,
Ted Mitchell
President
On behalf of:

American Association of Community Colleges
American Association of State Colleges and Universities
American Council on Education
Association of American Universities
Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

Reform of the State College Contracts Law: An Urgent Priority

June 14, 2018

New Jersey state colleges and universities fully support these important bills, which reform the State College Contracts Law – the highest legislative priority for the state institutions.  The State College Contracts Law (SCCL) is a 32-year-old law establishing the procedures that the state colleges and universities must follow in order to enter into contracts, purchase goods and services, and construct buildings on their campuses.

The proposed changes will save the colleges and universities millions of dollars and allow them to be more efficient and nimble institutions.  They will be allowed to offer a more affordable education while preserving the high-quality education for which New Jersey institutions are renowned.  Also noteworthy, this legislation will directly lead to significant positive economic impact for the state without costing the taxpayers a single additional dollar.  No one is asking for any money from the state.  New Jersey’s senior public higher education institutions are just asking for the ability to use their limited resources in the most prudent and productive manner for the public good.

The state colleges and universities are very different entities now than when the law was originally conceived.  In the past three decades, the state colleges and universities have transformed from local teacher’s colleges into sophisticated, world-class institutions attracting students from all over the country and the world.  They offer a myriad of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and all engage in research having profound benefits on our society.  The campuses are thriving hubs of intellectual and cultural activity for not only their students and employees but for the surrounding population as well.  Modernizing this law to reflect the institutions’ current status has been a longtime priority for the state colleges and universities because many aspects of the law hinder the effective, efficient, and responsive operation of the institutions.

The reform provides the state colleges and universities with the same standards for procurement and construction as the research institutions (NJIT, Rowan University and Montclair State University).

Some of the important reforms the senior four-year public institutions are seeking include:

  • Eliminating the lowest bidder requirement that has resulted in inferior construction, missed deadlines, increased costs and programmatic disruption.
  • Institution a bid threshold of $100,000 for all the public universities, including the research institutions of Montclair, Rowan and NJIT.  The current unreasonably low bid threshold cause process gridlock and hinders expeditious and cost-efficient operation.
  • Allowing  the state schools to engage in innovative and cost-efficient partnerships, particularly public-private partnerships – without a sunset clause.  This provides a fiscal tool for upgrading facilities and for long-range facilities planning, ultimately resulting in modern and high-performing campuses that would attract students and help stem the tide of outmigration.
  • Eliminating the time limitations on contracts to enable the institutions to engage in negotiations to secure the lowest possible price for goods and services.

The state colleges and universities are grateful to Senators Cunningham and Kean and Assemblywoman Jasey for sponsoring this legislation.  The proposed changes represent positive steps toward modernizing the laws affecting the state colleges and universities and allowing the institutions to function effectively and competitively in the 21st century.  These bills represent legislative support of and commitment to the future of the state colleges and universities as well as to public higher education in New Jersey.

State College Contracts Law
May 29, 2018

The New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities would like to highlight a legislative initiative - the revision of the State College Contracts Law (SCCL)- that is positive, productive, and sends a powerful message of support for all public higher education institutions in New Jersey. The SCCL revision represented by S-2627 (Cunningham) and A-4079 (Jasey) would result in no state or local tax increases, no state- aid increases, no tuition or fee increases. The revision would result in more affordable and accessible education for students at both two-year and four-year public institutions, plus, lead to significantly positive economic impacts for the state and municipalities.
  • An urgent priority for all the state institutions of higher education (two-year and four-year schools without the "research" designation) is the reform of the 32-year-old State College Contracts Law, many aspects of which are hindering the effective, efficient, and responsive operation of the institutions.  The state colleges and universities in size, scope and sophistication are very different entities than they were when the law was originally conceived.
  • The reform provides the state colleges and universities with the same standards for procurement and construction as the research institutions (NJIT, Rowan and Montclair - Rutgers has its own status under Rutgers Compact of 1956).  The reform will allow the institutions to be more affordable and responsive to student needs by enabling the schools to become more nimble and cost-efficient in the purchase of goods and construction of facilities.
  • Improving the contracting and procurement process will save the state institutions collectively hundreds of millions of dollars.  
    • Being forced to go with the lowest bidder has resulted in: inferior construction, missed deadlines, programmatic disruption.  Correcting these types of problems over the years has added significantly to the costs of a wide variety of construction projects.
    • The basic economic principal of supply and demand explains that buyers can get a lower price for goods or services if they enter a long-term contract.  The state colleges and universities, however, can generally enter a contract for no longer than three years.  Putting a limit on the length of a contract puts a limit on the ability of the state colleges to negotiate the best price.
  • We are seeking a bid threshold of $100,000 for all the public universities, including the research institutions of Montclair, Rowan and NJIT.  The lower bid thresholds cause process gridlock - again hindering nimble and cost-efficient operation.
  • Reform of the law would allow the state schools to engage in innovative and cost-efficient partnerships.
    • Public-private partnerships;
    • Design-build contracts; and
    • Construction-manager-at-risk contracts
  • It should be noted that another legislative initiative A-1299 (Greenwald) is working its way through the legislature; it would allow private companies to partner with a variety of public entities for construction projects among a variety of public entities including public universities, housing authorities and redevelopment agencies and removes the "sunset" provision for project applications.  NJASCU institutions are most appreciative of this measure; the public-private partnership issue is one crucial element of the more holistic and much needed revision of the State College Contracts Law.

PROSPER ACT Falls Short of Being Prosperous for Anybody – Makes College More Expensive and Less Accessible
May 22, 2018

As you know, the summer is fast approaching and Congress is working to finish pending legislative matters before its month-long recess in August. One matter of particular importance to all of us is the PROSPER Act, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Procedurally, the PROSPER Act has already moved through the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on a party-line vote, and awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives.

We expect this bill may reach the House Floor as early as next month, so I am bringing to your attention an opinion piece I co-authored with APLU President Peter McPherson that appeared earlier today in The Hill, a Capitol Hill-based political daily. Our commentary describes how the PROSPER Act would create problems for students and families as well as our institutions.
________________________________________

Opinion Piece – May 21, 2018

A decade after the last comprehensive overhaul of federal higher education law, Congress is again working on a rewrite of the nation’s higher education policy – with legislation that could come to the House floor this year. As our economy continues to produce outsized job growth for positions requiring a college education, it’s more important than ever that federal policy works to expand college access, foster college affordability, and strengthen workforce competitiveness.

Yet, the House higher education bill, known as the PROSPER Act, fails a basic test: First, do no harm. If enacted, the PROSPER Act would make college less accessible and more expensive – hampering efforts to ensure the United States has the most productive and competitive workforce in the world.

Numerous troubling provisions would spell big problems for students and their families. Consider student debt. The bill would eliminate subsidized loans for undergraduate students, meaning interest would accrue on students’ debt even as they pursue a degree. Though that change might seem marginal, it would significantly raise the cost of college for the millions of students who rely on such loans to finance their college education. For a student who borrows the national average of $16,139 in debt, the change would result in a $2,000, or a 45 percent, increase in interest paid over a standard 10-year repayment plan. What’s more, the PROSPER Act would eliminate Graduate PLUS loans, meaning some graduate students will be forced to fend for themselves with private lenders to finance their education or forgo graduate and professional studies.

Adding to these concerns, the bill would eliminate Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants. These grants leverage funding matches by colleges and universities and provide up to $4,000 to the neediest students so they can pursue a college education that unlocks a lifetime of opportunity. But just as access to college becomes more important than ever, the elimination of Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants would make college less accessible for students who stand to gain the most from a college education.

It would also roll back essential student and taxpayer protections. By easing access to billions of dollars of federal financial aid and gutting the Department of Education’s authority to protect the taxpayers’ investment, the bill makes it more likely students will fall victim to assuming debt for academic credentials of questionable value, receiving federal aid without earning a degree or certification and taking on loans that won’t be repaid.

Then there’s the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. While there can be a legitimate debate about reforming the program such as providing a reasonable cap for forgiveness, the legislation instead just outright eliminates it.

In all, the bill cuts $15 billion out of higher education support, which we doubt is the message Congress wants to deliver to their constituents at town halls across the country. Though there are some positive provisions in the bill, including elimination of loan origination fees and helpful language to ensure accreditors are focused on student outcomes, the negatives in the bill drastically outweigh the positives.

Congress should take a step back and carefully examine how it shapes higher education policy. Students and their families need federal higher education policy that increases access to college, improves affordability, and helps the United States maintain its position as the world’s most advanced economy. The PROSPER Act unfortunately falls far short of that standard.

Mildred Garcia is president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Peter McPherson is president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.
NJASCU Supports Comprehensive Plan for Higher Education; Unable to Support Bachelor’s Degree Programs at County Colleges
May 10, 2014

NJASCU Testimony Senate Bill No. 2535

Concerning Baccalaureate Degree Programs at County Colleges

 

Senate Higher Education Committee

May 14, 2018

As stated consistently and unanimously by New Jersey’s higher education leaders, New Jersey needs a comprehensive plan for higher education that would facilitate all sectors working together within the parameters of their respective mission to best serve students in New Jersey.  In the absence of such a plan, New Jersey’s state colleges and universities are unable to support this legislation (S-2535).  Initiating the mission change for county colleges as proposed in this legislation could have the unintended consequence of hurting rather than helping students in New Jersey

  • The cost of tuition and fees at county colleges would increase as bachelor's-degree programs are more expensive to offer than associate's-degree programs.  The county colleges are likely to require significant investment in infrastructure, technology and equipment, as well as increases in the number and qualifications of faculty.  This will lead to increased costs to students, their families and to taxpayers.  For county governments, the bill would create an unfunded mandate, with a significant implication for property taxes.  As for the county college, this bill will increase tuition and fees for ALL of its students since the infrastructure to support baccalaureate programs is an institution-wide obligation.  The State will likewise encounter an increase in pressure to provide additional resources to meet its obligation to fund the growing county college burden.
  • The bill fails to specify how the determination will be made regarding which fields are experiencing or are predicted to experience a critical labor shortage.  If this determination is inaccurate, the students in these programs might find themselves with a degree in a highly specialized field of study for which there are few jobs.  Moreover, once a determination is made, it is simply unsustainable to expect all county colleges to "ramp up" to establish and maintain the corresponding program, then "wind down" when the critical need is met.
  • The financial stability and future growth of our senior public institutions may be undermined, since the decisions regarding new construction of housing, laboratories, and research facilities, and the corresponding creation of jobs at these institutions are based in part on their enrollment numbers over the course of a bachelor's degree.

The bill also disregards the two-step legal process in place for almost 25 years for an institution to offer programs that exceed its mission.  First, the New Jersey Presidents' Council reviews and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Higher Education "concerning proposals for new programs that exceed the programmatic mission of an institution or that change the programmatic mission of an institution" (NJSA 18A:3B-8.c). “Programmatic mission” is defined under the law to mean “all program offerings consistent within those levels of academic degrees or certificates that the institution has been authorized to grant by the State Board of Higher Education prior to the effective date of this act [1994] or approved thereafter by the commission [which has since become the Office of the Secretary]” (NJSA 18A:3B-3). A slightly more detailed definition appears in the New Jersey Administrative Code: “Programmatic mission" means all program offerings consistent with the levels of academic degrees or certificates that the institution has been authorized to grant by the State Board of Higher Education prior to July 1, 1994, or approved thereafter by either the Commission or the Secretary” (NJAC § 9A:1-1.2).

Put more simply, institutions are categorized under programmatic missions that follow one of these degree programs: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, post-master’s, first-professional, and doctoral. Each of these degree programs is defined under the New Jersey Administrative Code. 

Under the second step in the statutory process, the Secretary of Higher Education makes “final administrative decisions over new academic programs that go beyond the programmatic mission of the institution” (NJSA 18A:3B-14.f). The New Jersey Administration Code lists the criteria that the Secretary uses to evaluate requests to exceed an institution's programmatic mission (NJAC § 9A:1-2.9):

  • The objectives of the proposed program(s);
  • The relationship of the proposed program(s) to the current institutional mission and the Statewide plan for higher education, if applicable;
  • Demonstration of need for the program(s), including present and projected student demand and demand for graduates;
  • The effect of the proposed program(s) on existing programs at other institutions;
  • The dedication of sufficient resources to implement and maintain the program(s) without eroding the quality of ongoing programs;
  • Appropriately qualified students, faculty, and administrators;
  • The quality of library holdings, facilities, and equipment, and
  • Evidence of strength compared with similar programs in the region and State.

Compared to the proposal in Senate Bill No. 2535, a better approach to supporting and serving New Jersey students is to continue to strengthen transfer agreements between the two- year and four- year institutions. We are very lucky here in New Jersey to have a large array of choices available to students, in terms of academic programming and geographic location. This diversity is a particular benefit for students transferring from New Jersey’s county colleges.

The implementation of the Comprehensive Statewide Transfer Agreement in 2009 significantly improved the ability of students from our county colleges to transfer to the public four-year institutions. In fact, the number of transfer students from the county colleges to the senior public colleges and universities increased more than 45 percent between 2006 and 2015.

The institutional members of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities are very proud of their numerous and successful partnerships with county colleges.  The proposed mission change for the county colleges would undermine the spirit and intent of the agreement to implement a comprehensive statewide transfer program for higher education.

If the State is inclined to appropriate funding to support “critical need applied science fields”, ideally, those resources should be directed to the institutions best suited to efficiently, effectively, and promptly react to meet the need.  The public four-year colleges and universities already likely have the infrastructure, faculty, supporting programs, and expertise in place.  

A holistic state plan for higher education would address ways to expand choices for all New Jersey students and to build more bridges toward their educational goals, rather than create baccalaureate degree programs at county colleges that have the potential to increase, not decrease, costs to students and taxpayers.


Q & A with David Socolow, the New Executive Director of HESAA
May 1, 2018
www.NJSpotlight.com
________________________________________

Two years ago, the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority came under fire for lending practices that lawmakers deemed “predatory.” Since then it’s put some new programs in place — either voluntarily or to comply with new state laws — intended to help borrowers pay off their loans. It also has a new executive director, David Socolow, appointed three months ago by Gov. Phil Murphy.Socolow spoke last week with NJ Spotlight, touching on changes that have already been made at HESAA and those to come, as well as other roles and the variety of loans the authority offers.

NJ Spotlight: How are you enjoying your position so far?

Socolow: It's been very exciting, with the governor's plans to make college more affordable and accessible.

We've got the proposed $50 million investment toward making community college free, the first phase of which is in the governor's budget that will enable 15,000 students with incomes below $45,000 to attend community college tuition and fee free. And you know HESAA's at the very center of that, working with the Secretary of Higher Ed, the governor's office, and the Legislature to make that top priority happen.

We've also got the significant investment in the governor's budget for New Jersey's premier tuition aid grant, the Tuition Aid Grant need-based financial aid program. The governor's budget has sufficient funding for 3,500 additional students to get one of those TAG grants to get a college education and the postsecondary training they need to get into the labor market.
We have a number of new initiatives and priorities to try to address the student-debt crisis. We've got a new student-loan servicing system that we put out an RFP (request for proposal) on in February to try to get more flexible technology to help us assist borrowers more effectively. We also have been developing new approaches to help students and individual borrowers who are delinquent on their student loans through a new household-income affordable-repayment program based on students' ability to pay.

NJ Spotlight: Let’s start with defaults. If I am a student or a former student and I'm currently in default, am I probably at a collection agency now? Is that something HESAA could still help with, or is it too late?

Socolow: For both our portfolio of the older federal loans, the FFELP loans, as well as the state NJCLASS loans, when the loans go into default, we refer them to a handful of collection-law firms that work for HESAA. When we look at the instructions that they were given and the way in which payment structures were designed, we think there is significant opportunity for reform that balances debt obligations with their ability to pay.

NJ Spotlight: So, these firms are supposed to be following guidelines that you give them?

Socolow: Exactly. Very few loans default, but when they do default, it's usually due to some economic calamity or hardship that all the parties have experienced, and so that's what we are working on.

But far more widespread are people who run into temporary trouble who are delinquent. They miss a payment or two, they're 60 days delinquent on their student loans or they're making a partial payment and they are asking for some form of relief. It's for them that we've just announced that we will be having in our new 2018 loans, a second program, called HIARP, Household Income Affordable Repayment Program. It works in tandem with the other limited two-year program that was offered last year called RAP, the Repayment Assistance Program. HIARP and RAP working together essentially will help those borrowers who are running into trouble to avoid default by giving them a more flexible repayment that is based on income, the combined income of all the parties to the loan.

While the vast majority, upward of 95 percent of all of our New Jersey CLASS loans are current, not delinquent at all, there are folks who start running into trouble, and the key is to help them quickly, when they are 60 days delinquent or 90 days delinquent or just beginning to run into trouble.

Prior to this initiative, in many ways, HESAA didn't have much to offer them. We do not currently have information about this on our website because this is for 2018 loans going forward, which don't start until July 1. The RAP program does exist, you can read about that on our website. That is an up to two-year period in which all the payments go right to principal. The amount of the payment is calculated based on that combined household income of all the parties to the loan, subtracting 150 percent poverty level for that household size … basically an affordable payment after nondiscretionary income is subtracted.

If you cure the problem that's making it hard to afford to pay your loans within two years, RAP is perfect because at the end of that time the loan has not accrued any interest, any payments you've made have gone towards principal.

That doesn't work, of course, if the trouble lasted longer than two years, and that's where HIARP comes in. HIARP is tacked onto the end of RAP for individuals for whom the material economic circumstance change didn't finish up within that timeframe.

NJ Spotlight: Are these kinds of programs commonly offered in other states or are we one of the few states that have our own loan program for students?

Socolow: There are 19 states that I'm aware of that run this model using the tax-exempt bond authority of the state to issue bonds and then pledging the revenues from qualified student loans with a New Jersey connection. It has to be either New Jersey residents or people from elsewhere who are going to New Jersey college.

NJ Spotlight: I think there were some complaints from parents who came out to the legislative hearing that that NJCLASS or HESAA was overselling, allowing students to take out large amounts of loans. Is there a cap on the amount of money that a student can borrow?

Socolow: The Legislature passed a law in 2017 that says the total loan amount per student cannot exceed $150,000, and that amount goes up each year by an amount that is the higher-education inflation index. But it's important to remember that these are school-certified, college-certified loans. The institution of higher education is required to certify the total amount of expected family contribution, which comes from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). That would be minus any federal or state grant or scholarship aid or school institutional scholarship, and minus the amount of the federal direct student loan that the student could take out, which is about $5,000 a year to $7,000 a year, depending on what year you are in undergraduate. And so, the amount you can borrow is really already limited by what is available, how much the expected family contribution is leftover.

NJ Spotlight: Are there a lot of folks who don't bother filing the FAFSA?

Socolow: We're all doing everything we can to encourage FAFSA completion. People often say, “Oh it's a lot of paperwork and lot of bother. I don't have my tax returns.” That's been solved. There is now a data retrieval tool, which the IRS, through the cooperation with the federal Department of Education, that pulls the tax return from two years ago, the so-called prior-prior-year tax return, pulls it down into the FAFSA, so you don't have to go hunting in your stacks of papers for that.

But a lot of people still don't do it because they don’t think they’re going to qualify for anything. And that's the other thing: People fill it out the first year when they're applying and then forget to fill it out the other years. You've got to fill out the FAFSA every year because you don't know what institutional aid the school might be offering — what scholarship you might qualify for from the state of New Jersey, from HESAA, as well as what federal aid you might qualify for. For the HESAA program, there are just a few additional questions when you finish the federal FAFSA form. Those are crucial because that is the way you find out whether you're eligible for financial aid provided by the state of New Jersey.

NJ Spotlight: Do you know what percentage fill it out or don't fill it out?

Socolow: It’s 60 percent who fill it out. We wish it were higher.

This is the core of our mission. We do more. We're here for a whole suite of programs and information services. We do more than 600 events a year out at high schools and with guidance counselors and with college financial aid officers and community groups to try to raise awareness of different sources of help paying for college. Our call center (800-792-8670) gives advice to students and families.

NJ Spotlight: And there's not an easy way to say, “If your income is X, you'll get so much aid,” because the formulas are complicated?

Socolow: That's why we encourage everyone to apply, because you don't know. It does factor in a number of different criteria. One criterion is income, another one is family size. Another one is the number of children in a family who are adding postsecondary education at the same time. Another factor is assets.

NJ Spotlight: The governor talked on the campaign trail about a loan-forgiveness program if you go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). There's nothing like that now?

Socolow: New Jersey has a couple of very small loan redemption programs for that purpose. There's one related to physicians that's in our budget that's been around for a few years. The governor did talk in the campaign about ways to build on that with a STEM loan-redemption program, and we are beginning to scope out what that might look like, but there's nothing announced yet on that, there's nothing formal yet.

NJCU, a Leader in Debt-Free Strategies at NJ Senior Public Universities, Hosted Gov. Murphy Highlighting His Proposed Budget that Includes More Student Assistance Funds
April 23, 2018

New Jersey City University (NJCU) on April 18, 2018 hosted a roundtable discussion featuring NJ Governor Phil Murphy, who emphasized his commitment to making higher education more affordable for New Jersey students. The Governor’s proposed 2019 budget contains $8.5 million for the expansion of Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF).

“Our goal is to keep a college degree within reach for working families and those who come from economically disadvantaged areas,” said Governor Murphy. “These investments will ensure that students can continue to realize their dreams because no one should be deprived from getting an education based on where they’re from, or their background, or current economic status, or their abilities. This is a matter of fairness that will lead to a stronger future for our students and for New Jersey.”

The TAG and EOF increased appropriations are in addition to the proposed $45 million – Community College Opportunity Grants (CCOGs). The CCOGs are “last-dollar” grants that will be used to cover any community college tuition and fees that are not already paid for by Pell Grants, Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) awards, or other funding sources as determined by The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE). During the first year, grants will be limited to those whose average family income is below $45,000.

Community college in New Jersey is already tuition- and fee-free for 29,600 students, or 20 percent of New Jersey’s 150,000 county college students, principally due to Pell grants and TAG.

However, it is appropriate to note that NJCU – the site of the governor’s roundtable – is one of the state’s leaders among four-year institutions in tuition-free initiatives. The NJCU Debt-Free Promise Program makes college education accessible and affordable for New Jersey residents who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree as income full-time freshman students. This program eliminates the need for students to take out loans to pay for their tuition and fees.  Read more here.

NJASCU Response to the Governor’s Budget Address
March 19, 2018

NJASCU’s Response to FY 2019 Budget Proposal
  • First and foremost, we very much look forward to working with the Governor and his new administration, and we remain hopeful that, together, we will address the difficult issues and build a higher education infrastructure in this state that assures opportunity and prosperity for its citizens.
  • Regarding the specifics of the Governor’s budget proposal, we are disappointed that the tens of thousands of students attending the state's senior public colleges and universities were entirely left out of the plan and that the urgent issues related to state operating support for these institutions remained, yet again, unaddressed. There was also no reference to addressing the all-important capital needs of the institutions.
  • We believe the key to achieving that mission of providing affordable, accessible, and high-quality education is a student-centric approach by having the financial aid follow the student irrespective of where he or she chooses to attend college. Therefore, we also were disappointed that there was no recognition given to the very urgent need to reform the TAG program if we are really going to address the issue of college affordability in New Jersey.
  • We were pleased to see at least a modest increase for the EOF program, which has been a very important and successful program for students with exceptionally challenging socio-economic circumstances and a wonderful example of a student-centric approach to higher education support.
  • In the budget address, Governor Murphy kept referring to the $50 million in support for community colleges as the first step towards achieving free community college. We are concerned about the Free Tuition program for community colleges primarily because, as presented, it is not embedded within an overall plan for public higher education in the state.

Editorial Urges Politicians to Support Higher Education – it’s a Winning Issue

 March 19, 2018

 NY Times Editorial Says Higher Education is Important and Finds Flaws in Polls Expressing Negative Opinions about Higher Education

www.NYTimes.com

March 19, 2018

We’re supposed to be living in a time of education skepticism. The media regularly run stories suggesting education is overrated. K-12 schools are said to be in a never-ending crisis, and college debt has become a new crisis. A much-discussed Pew Research Center poll recently found a jump in the number of people saying colleges had a negative effect on the country.

In truth, though, Americans’ attitudes toward education are much simpler than all of this noise suggests — just as that Alabama ad test found. Whatever complaints people may have about their local school or college costs, most have no doubt that their children need a good education. People see it as the most reliable path to a good life, and they are right.  Read full alert.

NJASCU Rasies Concerns about Free College Concept as Touted by the Governor's Budget Proposal
March 15, 2018

To summarize:

  • Governor Phil Murphy’s first state budget proposal of $37.4 billion calls for just what he promised he’d do — raise taxes; increase funding for education, pensions and mass transit; legalize marijuana; and make smaller adjustments that meet with his progressive agenda. He calls the budget “realistic and responsible” with a projected surplus of $742 million. Other than taxing the “sharing economy,” Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, and restoring the 7 percent sales tax from 6.625 percent, the plan held few surprises. What may turn out to be surprising is what his fellow Democrats will do with the plan, as their initial response appeared to be lukewarm. And the Republican response has been one of vehement opposition.
  • Gov. Murphy predicted the state could see a $765 million boost from his proposed 10.75 percent millionaires tax. Other proposals include an estimated $60 million in additional excise and sales tax revenue to be collected from the sale of legalized marijuana. The money would be used to help war veterans in the state.
  • He also vowed that school districts will get $283 million in new funding and reallocation of funds, with $57 million for districts seeking to expand their pre-K programs. 
  • The governor reiterated his intent to make community colleges tuition free.
Read full analysis  here.

Affordability and Accessibility at NJASCU Institutions and the Concept of “Free” College
March 7, 2018

  • Providing affordable, accessible, and high-quality education is the mission of New Jersey’s senior public colleges and universities.
  • We believe the key to achieving that mission is a student-centric approach by having the financial aid money follow the student irrespective of where he or she chooses to go to school. We need to create a Student Financial Aid (SFA) program that features financial aid going directly to the student, instead of the current Tuition Aid Grant (TAG), which is based upon the institution and sector of New Jersey higher education he or she attends. The New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) epitomizes this philosophy and has produced some of New Jersey’s greatest government and business leaders in spite of coming from exceptionally challenging socio-economic circumstances.
  • Free college tuition programs (two-year or four-year) share common fiscal, political, and policy-related shortcomings.
    • For example, even if tuition is free, students must still find a way to pay for living expenses, transportation, books, supplies and other ancillary expenses like childcare. These other fiscal challenges may thwart a student’s ability to achieve academic success.
    • Subsidizing all students is an inefficient use of government funding. Providing free tuition for all students, regardless of ability to pay, will divert financial support from economically disadvantaged students to those who are capable of paying all or a portion of their tuition.
    • Also, several of the four-year public universities – including New Jersey City University – have come up with free-tuition strategies for those students who meet family income levels of $60,000 or less.
The public colleges and universities would be in a much better position to keep tuition and fees as low as possible if the state would do the following:

  • Address declining funding of the state colleges and universities - over the past 25 years (FY 1991-FY2016) appropriations per FTE decreased by 40 percent at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities and at the same time FTE enrollment increased from 164,366 to 268,296 students. 
    • Increase in operating support to all public institutions. Operating support should be increased and a rational basis for higher education appropriations should be developed and implemented. 
    • Reform the burdensome State College Contracts Law (SCCL) to enable the state colleges and universities to operate under the same regulations as the research institutions. The SCCL requirements cost the state colleges and universities time and money in procurement and construction. 
    • Provide a consistent annual capital funding appropriation also would help institutions reduce student fees and provide state-of-the-art facilities that our students and faculty deserve and need to succeed. 

DACA Still Unresolved and Challenges in Decision Making Continue
March 5, 2018

DACA Lives, but for How Long?
https://www.insidehighered.com/

Monday, March 5, was supposed to be a last-ditch deadline for Congress to act if it wanted to keep the protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. Two nationwide court injunctions blocking the Trump administration from ending DACA are temporarily keeping much of the program alive. With no legislative solution in sight, uncertainty prevails. The long-term prospects for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who have benefited from the program still remain in limbo.

To recap: DACA, established by former president Obama in 2012, offers temporary protection against deportation and also provides work authorization to a subset of young undocumented immigrants, including many current or former college students, who were brought to the U.S. as children. In September, the Trump administration announced plans to gradually end the program, arguing that the establishment of DACA represented an unconstitutional overreach of Obama’s executive power, a conclusion many legal scholars disagree with.

While it would not terminate existing grants of DACA status, which is valid for two years, the Trump administration said in September it would not accept renewal requests for individuals whose benefits were set to expire after March 5 -- today -- meaning that an ever-increasing number of DACA recipients would start to lose their protections and work authorization as early as tomorrow. Trump at the time said that Congress had six months to act to, in his words, “legalize DACA.”

It has not yet done so. Democrats in Congress forced two brief government shutdowns over the issue, but Congress subsequently passed a two-year budget bill that included many Democratic priorities, but no solution on Dreamers. The Senate subsequently voted on three different bills to codify protections for Dreamers. All of the bills failed.

President Trump’s own stance has also shifted. After initially indicating that he would sign whatever bill Congress brought him, Trump began to insist that legislation to protect Dreamers include concessions anathema to many Democrats in Congress, those being: $25 billion for a southern border wall, the elimination of the diversity visa lottery program and new restrictions on family-based immigration.

All of that brings us to today and the question of what colleges can do to assist students with DACA status during this prolonged period of uncertainty. Many college presidents and higher education groups have been active in lobbying for a path to permanent residency or citizenship for these students, and concerns about the possible deportations of Dreamers in the months immediately following Trump's election spurred many colleges to declare themselves "sanctuary campuses" or otherwise articulate commitments that they or their police forces would not voluntarily cooperate with immigration enforcement (while leaving open the possibility that they could be compelled to do so).

The Higher Education Governance Issue in NJ Should Be a Non-Issue
March 2, 2018

NJASCU was asked to comment for the below article that appeared in the PoliticoPro subscription-only online media source. In addition to the NJASCU quotes that made it into the story, NJASCU would like to add the following:
The governance issue in New Jersey is long-standing, going back to the demise of the Department of Higher Education in 1994. Many are predisposed to the notion that a more powerful office would make college more affordable and outcomes more productive. Yet, the proponents of the alleged good old days of a chancellor and department of higher education never present evidence of the benefits of a chancellor system, never provide comparative national data to indicate how governance affects college outcomes and accountability. Evidence provided by outside national experts at some of the nation's top think tanks, such as NCHEMS National Center for Higher Education Management Systems tend to dispel this view point, because it is a POLITICAL perspective, not one based on objective analysis. NJASCU institution presidents, speaking at the NJASCU Symposium on Higher Education in October 2017, all voiced opposition to reverting to a chancellor system of governance. They claim their schools have thrived under a system of more independence and autonomy. Dr. Harvey Kesselman, president of Stockton University, said “the public institutions all demonstrated how – without the chancellor system and with autonomy – they have thrived. Data show that the senior four-year public colleges and universities are strong, provide high quality education, are accessible, serve a very diverse population, and are an economic engine for their respective regions of the state. They have kept tuition and fees down in spite of drastically reduced state operating support.”  Read more.

DACA Update – Supreme Court Decision
February 27, 2018

On Monday, February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court denied the Administration’s request for expedited review of a federal district court’s injunction against the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.

The ruling does not address the merits of the Administration’s arguments, but leaves in place the lower court’s injunction that requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to continue processing DACA renewals pending appellate review before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In its two-sentence ruling, the Court indicated that it assumes that “the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case.”

The action provides current DACA recipients with a temporary – and probably brief – reprieve beyond the fast-approaching March 5 termination date set by the President last year, and allows them to renew their status at least until the full adjudication of the issue.

Following the lead of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, NJASCU urges the Congressional leadership and the White House to move as quickly as possible to craft a fair and permanent legislative solution to end the unsustainable predicament of the Dreamers and thus render the litigation in question moot. Campuses are encouraged to communicate the need for a DACA solution with their Congressional delegations.

In the interim, NJASCU encourages DACA participants to renew their status while the program is still in court-ordered operation.

NJASCU Opposes Re-establishing the Position of Chancellor of Higher Education

February 26, 2018

With the new governor and new personnel leading higher education policy in New Jersey, questions have been raised about the wisdom or folly of reinstating the position of the Chancellor of Higher Education and returning to higher education governance under a Department of Higher Education. NJASCU presidents at the NJASCU Symposium on Higher Education (October 26, 2017) weighed in unequivocally against such a change.

Transition Report – Science and Technology

 February 15, 2018

 

In the Technology Transition Report just presented to Governor Murphy:  NJ Technology Transition Report to Governor Murphy there are elements relating to higher education:

 

Ø  Priority:  Strengthen links between our universities and innovative sectors

o   Publicize our universities’ intellectual property assets and assist with their commercial distribution.

o   Create an innovation competition for faculty and students to generate solutions to statewide problems.

 

Ø  Priority:  Attract and retain high-tech talent and investment in New Jersey

o   Create a fellowship program to boost New Jersey’s government technology and attract talented professionals to work in state government.

o   Establish a STEM-specific student-loan forgiveness program.

o   Encourage all public schools to expand computer science programs.

 

NJASCU Response:

 

The senior four-year public schools that NJASCU represents have been focused on the priorities of the Technology Transition report for a number of years and look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to enhance those efforts.  Many of our schools used the Building Our Future higher education bond money to build much needed state-of-the-art STEM facilities.  But the 2012 bond program was the first one for higher education in 25 years.  And successful STEM programs require operating support as well – and, the operating support to public institutions have decreased significantly over the past 25 years (40 percent decrease per FTE).  In order to continue to offer cutting-edge STEM initiatives, public higher education institutions need consistent operational and capital funding support – and that requires a rational and comprehensive approach to appropriations.


NJASCU Comments on the Report of the Education, Access, and Opportunity Transition Advisory Committee

February 9, 2018

NJASCU responds to some of the points made by the NJ Governor’s Transition Report on Education - “Report of the Education, Access, and Opportunity Transition Advisory Committee” – with: praise for some of the suggestions; questions about other priorities; and suggestions for priorities not included.

NJCU School Psychology Program Gains International Accreditation
February 6, 2018

The NJCU School Psychology program was awarded accreditation by the International School Psychology Association (ISPA) recently at its annual meeting in Manchester, England. The NJCU program is now one of only five programs in the US that has achieved international recognition. The School Psychology program at NJCU is based on the idea practice should honor diversity and flow from the familial, cultural and linguistic environment of each student. ISPA accreditation board cited the program’s commitment to establishing cultural competence in its graduates and the overall excellence of coursework. The NJCU accreditation team was led by Dr. Frank Nascimento, Assistant Professor of Psychology.

Update on DACA (February 5, 2018)

The federal government shutdown ended on January 22, 2018, with a short-term, bipartisan Senate deal to extend federal funding through February 8 and a commitment by the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring an immigration bill regarding DACA to the Senate floor within that same time period.  

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) President Dr. Mildred Garcia penned an opinion piece on DACA.  She urged lawmakers to deal with DACA - an issue on which most members of Congress and more than 80 percent of the American public - actually agree.  February 8, 2018 is almost here and the next government shutdown is looming.  Some in Congress are working on a bi-partisan bill.  Dr. Garcia's op-ed presents a compelling argument for going forward.

* * * * * * * *

The propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory has become an unfortunate feature of contemporary American politics. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in the political debate about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. This month, however, Congress and President Trump have an opportunity to reverse that pattern – to fix DACA, once and for all, and to move on to other pressing challenges. We urge that they do so.

Nearly 800,000 individuals across America now have temporary protection from deportation through DACA. Ninety-seven percent of these "Dreamers," as they are aptly known, are either in school or employed. One-fifth are enrolled in college. Another third are in high school and considering their options for postsecondary education and training. Five percent of DACA students have already completed their bachelor's degree.

Brought to this country as children, Dreamers are not culpable for their undocumented status. They have grown up and attended school in America as the only home many of them have known. The vast majority have little connection to where their parents came from. Rather than make them continue to live in fear and uncertainty, we have a moral obligation to enable them to continue to pursue the American Dream. That moral obligation happens to coincide with our national self-interest: These are young people who love this country and are hopeful to contribute to it as eagerly as anyone else.

The debate about DACA drags on despite overwhelming agreement on the substance of the issue. The American public strongly supports a legislative fix. A Fox News poll in September 2017 found that 83 percent of Americans support some pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found more than four-fifths of adults – 86 percent – support allowing DACA participants to stay in the United States if they had arrived as a child, had completed high school or served in the military and had not committed a serious crime.

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This national consensus is also reflected in strong bipartisan support for DACA. Even when President Trump announced the termination of the program this past September, he provided a window for Congress to legislate on the matter and made additional comments in support of favorable congressional action. Almost immediately, various bipartisan groups of lawmakers introduced legislation to do just that. In a recent meeting with congressional leaders, the president signaled his interest in finding a legislative compromise to the DACA conundrum. As recently as this past weekend, the president said that he is "ready and willing to make a deal" on DACA.

And yet, the obvious solution for DACA – costing no additional money and causing no partisan rift – remains elusive. If our politics can't handle a subject as substantively uncontroversial as DACA, how can it navigate the many challenges actually dividing policymakers? In higher education alone, we face uncertainties around the implementation of the new tax law, a higher education reauthorization, regulatory and administrative actions and a stalemate on the federal budget. In contrast to the disagreement we might expect on those and other issues, most people agree that we can and should solve DACA. Why, then, can't policymakers quickly dispense with the debate, take a vote on DACA and achieve victory?

Student-Athletes Attending New Jersey's Colleges and Universities Stand to Lose - Again - if Sports Gambling is Legalized in Our State.  NJASCU Executive Director Michael Klein submitted a letter-to-the-editor of The New York Times in response to a story about the legalization of sports betting.  (December 26, 2017)


S-2552 – Authorizes reciprocal agreements with other states for academic credit transfer and directs public institutions of higher education to enter into such agreements.  Senate Higher Education Committee on December 11, 2017, voted to move forward with the proposal.

The state colleges and universities strongly agree with the intent of this legislation to help students earn their degrees by preventing the loss of already earned credits and valuable time through transfer and articulation policies. But we find no examples of interstate articulation and transfer agreements – thus making implementation of such legislation problematic. Read NJASCU Alert. (December 11, 2017)


New House and Senate Tax Bills Would Affect College Students, Families

www.AASCU.org


Tax bills passed by the House and Senate in Congress would have major implications for universities and students if signed into law, college officials say, including reducing or eliminating some popular tax deductions and taxing tuition waivers for graduate assistants.  Other provisions would reduce incentives for charitable giving, which could make people less likely to donate to nonprofit university foundations.  Both bills have passed their respective house of Congress and must be negotiated before a final bill is sent to President Donald Trump. (December 7, 2017)


Senate Bill No. 3097 - Food Insecurity, for consideration by the Senate Higher Education Committee, Thursday, November 30, 2017; S-3097 allows students to voluntarily donate unused meal funds to be distributed to the NJ Federation of Food Banks.

NJASCU has some serious concerns about the implementation and effectiveness of this bill.  We very much appreciate the Senator's concern regarding food insecurity on campus, but unfortunately this bill will have unintended consequences.  Read advocacy alert here. (November 29, 2017)


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