A 1670 A 3739 A 4085

Higher Education Legislation

The Assembly is taking up several bills today dealing with Higher Education.  NJEA represents faculty and staff at our Community Colleges in N.J. and we also have an active group of student NJEA members.  These student NJEA members are future educators and are very concerned about the current cost of college tuition in the State as well as civil rights.  NJEA thanks the Speaker for posting the bills and the sponsors for their support on the following three bills:

A-1670 (Schaer, Quijano) establishes the Office of Student Loan Ombudsman within the Department of Banking and Insurance.  Under the bill the ombudsman will:

  • receive, review, and attempt to resolve any complaints from student loan borrowers;
  • compile and analyze data on student loan borrower complaints;
  • assist student loan borrowers to understand their rights and responsibilities;
  • provide information and make recommendations to the public, agencies, legislators, and others regarding the problems and concerns of student loan borrowers;
  • analyze and monitor the development and implementation of federal, State, and local laws, regulations, and policies relating to student loan borrowers;
  • review the complete student education loan history for any student loan borrower who has provided written consent for review;
  • disseminate information concerning the availability of the Student Loan Ombudsman to assist student loan borrowers and potential student loan borrowers; and
  • regulate student loan services.

At a time when predatory lending is on the rise and college costs are skyrocketing, this bill provides an advocate for our students from all walks of life.  A place for them and their families to turn to when the private lenders turn their backs.

A-3739 (Jasey, Chiaravalloti) this bill requires public institutions of higher education to allow students, faculty and staff to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity on any forms used by the institution to collect demographic data on gender, race, or ethnicity.

This bill allows for the correct identification of the number of students and faculty and staff to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity if they so choose.  This bill will go a long way in securing the proper funding at colleges for the programs that are necessary to help those seeking equality and fairness.

In addition, we know through studies and we hear from educators, that students graduate on-time when they have the proper counseling and guidance in college.

Helping the state and counties identify and address the needs of students across all spectrums will also help address graduation requirements in addition to the most important factor, addressing their emotional needs.

A-4085 (Schaer, Jasey, Vainieri-Huttle) this bill establishes the “Succeed in New Jersey” student loan reimbursement program within HESAA for recent college graduates who are residents of New Jersey and are employed in certain fields to be designated by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  The bill caps total reimbursement awards at $10 million per year.

The program will reimburse an eligible applicant for a portion of the student loan payments made under a federal or New Jersey student loan program for a maximum period of three years.  To be eligible, an applicant must: (1) be a resident of New Jersey and have resided in the State for at least three months prior to applying for the program; (2) be a United States citizen or eligible noncitizen; (3) have earned an undergraduate degree in or after December 2014; (4) apply for the program within four years of obtaining an undergraduate degree; (5) have an outstanding student loan balance under a federal or New Jersey student loan program; (6) be employed in one of the designated fields with a primary work location in New Jersey; and (7) have an income that does not exceed 500 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Given the flat salaries in education and increased premium sharing for health benefits, we feel our members who struggle with college loans will benefit greatly from this program.

NJEA urges you to vote “yes” on these bills and once again, thank the sponsor and the Speaker for posting legislation that will go a long way in helping a lot of our most vulnerable citizens as well as our struggling families.

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