The New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to vote on Monday on legislation that would create a College Affordability Study Commission.  The legislation was recently amended after Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed it on July 10. 

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"The governor said that he would prefer that the Office of Legislative Services, and not the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, would provide staff and related support services for this commission. Actually, it really is a smart idea because right now the secretary of Higher Education has a very limited amount of resources," said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Bridgeton), chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

If it is established, the College Affordability Study Commission would examine issues and develop recommendations to increase the affordability of higher education in New Jersey. The panel would consist of 12 members including the secretary of Higher Education and the executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

Among other things, Riley said she would like the commission to explore her "Pay it Forward, Pay it Back" bill.

"The idea of the 'Pay it Forward,' pilot program is basically that a student would agree to participate in the program and that student would go to school for free and then upon graduation, start to pay back into the program based on a percentage of what they're making," Riley said. "They're going to be looking to see if that is something that is feasible to be done in the state of New Jersey."

The panel would also study the creation of an Accelerated Medical Degree Pilot Program to offer high-performing high school students interested in pursuing a medical degree or graduate-level science or engineering degree the opportunity of receiving that degree earlier than would be possible under a traditional program.

Other areas to be explored include:

  • The creation of an Affordable Degree Pilot Program.
  • Explore ways to increase the performance of the New Jersey Better Educational Savings Trust (NJBEST).
  • Changes to the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) Loan Program.
  • Any other ideas that commission members think would increase the affordability of higher education in the state.

"It's a very hot issue. College in the state of New Jersey is really getting too cost prohibitive," Riley said.