In an attempt to improve affordability and transparency on university and college campuses, the Senate Higher Education Committee today approved four bills that would expand financial aid and establish a student advisory commission.

“Ensuring transparency and equity in our institutions of higher education begins with allowing our students to become a part of the decision-making process for the policies that directly impact them as university and college students, as well as guaranteeing that their voices are well-represented,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “It is also crucial that students are aware of the costs they are undertaking and the assistance available to them. Where to attend college is a major life decision for young adults and it is our goal to equip them with the tools they need to make a well-informed decision.”

The first bill, S-1372, sponsored by Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, would require institutions of higher education to provide students with a financial aid award letter consistent with the financial aid shopping sheet. The financial aid shopping sheet was signed into law in 2019 and has been designed to improve both students’ and parents’ understanding of higher education costs and financial aid options.

The second bill, S-1373, sponsored by Senator Cunningham and Senator Ruiz, would require the financial aid shopping sheet to include information on dependent care allowances to prospective students who have one or more dependents. In addition to expenses incurred by attending an institution of higher education, such as tuition, fees, and room and board, the cost of attendance may also include a dependent care allowance for students who experience expenses because of their dependents. Being eligible for a dependent care allowance allows a student to become eligible for additional financial aid.

“The financial aid shopping sheet is a critical factor to ensuring that prospective students and their parents are aware of all additional financial aid available to them when applying to institutions of higher education,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We all know that when a family can maximize resources to cover costs, the burden of student loans is alleviated. Our goal with these bills is to guarantee that students and their parents are making the most informed decisions when choosing where to attend college.”

The third bill, S-1885, sponsored by Senator Cunningham and Senator Ruiz, would repeal the State student financial aid eligibility requirement that a student subject to the federal “Military Selective Service Act” must provide verification of compliance in order to be eligible to State-funded loans, grants, and scholarships. The purpose of this bill is to align State student financial aid eligibility requirements with federal requirements.

The final bill, S-1731, sponsored by Senator Vincent Polistina and Senator Sandra Cunningham, would establish the New Jersey Higher Education Student Advisory Commission to advise the Secretary of Higher Education on student concerns.

The bills were all released from committee by votes of 5-0.

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