Governor, Legislature reauthorize free tuition opportunity grant


Students from families with a gross annual income of $65,000 a year or less may be able to attend Middlesex County College (MCC) tuition-free this September.

A revised Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) was included in the budget bill that the New Jersey Legislature passed and Gov. Phil Murphy signed at the end of June. It covers all 19 community colleges in the state.

“We applaud the governor and Legislature for making this investment in the state’s future,” Mark McCormick, MCC president, said in a statement released by the college. “We are very pleased that eligible residents of the county may take advantage of this program. It will mean students will work less so they can study more. We know that earning an associate degree increases lifetime earning capacity significantly. CCOG expands opportunity.”

CCOG began with a pilot program last spring and was aimed at students with an adjusted gross income of $45,000 a year or less. This budget increased the threshold to $65,000.

“Making community college free this past semester was a game-changer for the students, for their communities, and for the state,” Murphy said in the statement.

CCOG now covers both the fall and spring semesters for those taking six or more credits. It does not include summer session.

The 2020 state budget includes up to $25 million for CCOG awards to be applied directly to eligible student accounts. This is a last-dollar scholarship, which means it will cover tuition after other federal or state assistance programs – such as Federal Pell Grants or New Jersey Tuition Assistance Grants – are applied.

Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey secretary of Higher Education, along with David J. Socolow, executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, visited numerous county colleges in the spring to gauge the success of the program, according to the statement.

“I heard from students who had to take on three jobs to pay their expenses,” Ellis said in the statement. “I heard from single parents who supported their children while studying for exams. The CCOG enabled these students to stay in college. Those students are more likely to graduate and thereby repay the state’s investment.”

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