New Jersey Introduces Free Tuition With Garden State Guarantee Program

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On June 29, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed the Garden State Guarantee that will go into effect at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester. The Garden State Guarantee is a financial aid program that will provide students with up to four semesters of free tuition and fees for New Jersey students. 

The program will aid students whose family-adjusted gross income is between $0 to $65,000 annually with free tuition and fees. Student families with an adjusted gross income between $65,001 to $80,000 will also receive assistance. Students will get no more than $7,500 for the fall and spring semesters. Students must have at least 60 credits, which would place students in their third and fourth years of study.

Students must meet the state’s criteria to be eligible for the Garden State Guarantee. The student must be a New Jersey resident, and this does include New Jersey Dream Act students. 

In a press release announcing the Garden State Guarantee, Phil Murphy explained the importance of the Guarantee program. 

“We know students drop out of college, or worse, rule it out as an option for them because they believe the price tag is unaffordable. After more than a decade of decreased state investments in higher education, our administration’s innovative plan creates a path for broader college affordability,” said Murphy in the press release.

Bria Rivello, program assistant at the Rowan financial aid office shares similar sentiments.

“Many students see cost and financial issues as a barrier to getting a college education. Like many students go through much of their lives thinking ‘this is impossible for me, I am not going to be able to reach this because I am not going to be able to afford it.’ Or ‘I am going to be swamped in student debt.’ So having the Garden State Guarantee eliminates that worrying, it makes people go from seeing college as a dream and making it a real possibility for them,” said Rivello.  

The FAFSA form must be completed and meet all the state deadlines to have state aid eligibility. The deadline to complete the FAFSA is April 15, 2022, for the fall and spring semesters. 

On Oct. 1, 2022, students must complete the State Record in NJFAMS. This includes state tasks such as verification, correction, reevaluation and adding a college. The eligibility can be put at risk if incomplete. 

Satisfactory academic process must be maintained to be eligible. Students must earn no more than 126 credits and be working towards their first bachelor’s degree. Continuing students and incoming transfer students are also eligible. 

The Garden State Guarantee will be awarded as the “last dollar” to cover tuition and fees after all types of financial aid have been applied. The guarantee cannot be used to create a refund or credit balance.   Other grants will be applied first before the Guarantee covers the remainder.

“The value of a four-year degree from a top institution like Rowan University cannot be overstated. That value can be increased many times over for students who do not have to incur debt in order to complete their degree,” said Dr. Jeffrey Hand, the senior vice president for Strategic Enrollment Management at Rowan in a Rowan Today report.

“That’s going to allow more students to be able to get a quality education at pretty much no cost or very low cost to them. I think it really helps people, in the long run, to be able to increase their earnings because they’re not going to be swamped in student debt,” said Rivello. 

For Rivello, this represents Rowan’s mission to bring students education at an affordable cost. 

“It definitely stands by Rowan’s mission of being able to provide quality education at an affordable cost to all different kinds of people. Because the Garden State Guarantee, the way I see it, really expands the opportunity for people to get a good education at a very low to no cost which is what Rowan University is all about, affordable and accessibility,” said Rivello.

The program is going to change things for students that are receiving that guarantee. It will also affect Rowan as a whole. 

“It is really going to change Rowan for the better because so many different types of students are going to be able to attend Rowan now. So you will be seeing students from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, all different races, cultures, and I think that makes Rowan a better place because that’s going to welcome more diversity to the university,” said Rivello. 

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