Legislation Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton and Jamel Holley sponsored to encourage New Jersey's colleges and universities to offer baccalaureate degree programs that cost no more than $10,000 in tuition and fees was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (ACR-114) comes after a number of institutions of higher education in other states, including Texas and Florida, have taken measures to make attending college more affordable by developing $10,000 baccalaureate degree programs.
"The cost of attending an institution of higher education continues to increase, and many New Jersey students and their families find it difficult to afford the tuition and fees required for enrollment," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "We've worked hard over the last several months to pass higher education reform bills, and this is another piece of that effort. A person's level of education continues to be one of the most significant factors in determining his economic well-being. With many highly-skilled workers competing for a limited number of job openings, it's imperative that high school graduates be able to afford to attend college and attain the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century workplace."
"College tuition has increased at a rate faster than inflation for approximately 30 years, which has resulted in record-high student loan debt," said Holley (D-Union). "Offering baccalaureate degree programs that cost no more than $10,000 in tuition and fees will greatly increase the ability of New Jersey students to attend an institution of higher education, acquire the training needed to secure good, high-paying jobs, minimize student loan debt and become productive members of their communities."
The sponsors noted that, at approximately $1.2 trillion, total student loan debt has exceeded the total national credit card debt. That's completely unacceptable.
"Higher education needs to be affordable and a gateway to a better future, not decades of financial struggle," Singleton said.
"If we're to help our hard-working families, we need to consider every alternative to creating an affordable higher education,' Holley said.
According to a 2011 United States Census Bureau report, a person who graduates from college with a baccalaureate degree will earn, over the course of a lifetime, $2.4 million, which on average is $1 million more than a person with only a high school diploma.
Yet, in its ninth annual report on student loan debt issued in November of 2014 the Institute for College Access and Success found that nearly seven in 10 college seniors who graduated in 2013 left school with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt, an increase of 2 percent over 2012.
Also, according to the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, for the 2014-15 academic year the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a full-time, in-state, undergraduate student enrolled in a four-year public institution of higher education is $12,894, and the average annual cost of tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student enrolled in an independent institution of higher education in New Jersey is $35,084.
The bill was released by the Assembly Higher Education Committee.