Rutgers University-Camden has introduced a new need-based program that offers students either 50 percent or 100 percent off of their tuition and fees, based on household income. Students may renew this Bridging the Gap grant annually, provided that they successfully complete 30 credit hours in an academic year and remain in good academic standing.
Through this program, student loan debt will be greatly reduced. For many families, it may be avoided entirely. This is critical in an era in which the national student loan debt has exceeded $1.2 trillion, a number so large it is hard to combat. New Jersey was ranked eighth in student debt. But, this is a good start.
Bridging the Gap covers 50 percent of tuition for students with a household income of between $60,000 and $100,000. It extends to cover 100 percent of tuition to students with a household income of $60,000 or less. This is not a grant for which students must apply; students must simply fill out the FAFSA application in order to become eligible for the program. Once chosen for this program, applicants are able to apply for and receive additional scholarships and grants. It is estimated that out of 400 applicants, 240 are eligible and about 100 will be chosen to be part of this program.
Is such a program feasible at Ramapo? The answer is: not really. Rutgers-Camden and Ramapo have comparable tuition rates and enrollment, but the composition of Rutgers-Camden is very different. It should be noted that Rutgers-Camden has about 600 students that live on campus, whereas Ramapo has about 3,000. Further, the difference in state appropriations between the $14,638,000 that Ramapo receives and the $17,051,000 amounts to about $2.5 million. This could be the difference that allows Rutgers-Camden to have this program, as it would cost a maximum of $1.4 million for the school to fund.
How do we get more state funding to employ a program like this? An option for students is to make their voices heard at the public hearing for the College Affordability Study Commission. The next meeting of this commission will take place on Nov. 18, 2015 at The College of New Jersey. Also, please join in on these discussions at our weekly CA$H meeting on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. in SC-225.