On Feb. 5, 2015, Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill 979 into law. This bill established the College Affordability Study Commission, which will submit a report of methods to reduce the cost of higher education. The committee of 10 will include college presidents, faculty, students and public representatives. Ramapo College has direct representation, as Governor Christie recently appointed President Mercer to serve as one of the public college representatives on the commission.
In order to reduce the cost of a degree, the College Affordability Study Commission will research several programs over its 18-month study. Specifically, they will consider accelerated degree programs. These programs would decrease the amount of time students spend in college to complete their degrees. With less time in college, students would accumulate less debt. Also, the commission will consider an Affordable Degree Pilot Program, which would offer tuition discounts for students who complete two years at a community college prior to finishing their baccalaureate degree at a four-year public college.
In addition, the commission has suggested implementing pay-it-forward programs. These programs will allow students to pay a discounted rate while they attend school; however, after securing a job, the college graduates will repay a percentage of their incomes to the school for a certain period of time. Consequently, the students would not accumulate burdensome debt loads when in school, and colleges would receive enough revenue to remain financially sound.
Moreover, the commission will seek to improve the performance of the New Jersey Better Educational Savings Trust, which allows families to save money in this program to use as a scholarship for their children who attend a New Jersey college. To improve this program, the commission will suggest means to increase investment options and flexibility, as well as to ensure the financial viability of the program.
Finally, the commission aims to make the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program more transparent and user-friendly. Through transparency, students and families will better understand the total cost of college.
Do you have other suggestions to lower the costs of higher education? If you are passionate about reducing the price of college, share your opinion with your political representative and make sure to vote in future elections. If you would like to register to vote or get involved, please come to the Student Government Association office in SC-223.