In New Jersey, Graduating High School requires more than a passing grade in your classes each year and meeting your academic requirements. Since 2001, all New Jersey Juniors have been required to take a Proficiency examination in order to qualify for graduation.  For 13 years, Eleventh Graders had to take the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) and for the 2014-15 Academic Year, the HSPA was replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Test.

But starting with the 2025 Grading Class, there is another prerequisite for High School Graduation in New Jersey.  Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Legislative Bill A1181/S2054 which requires students starting with the 2023-24 Junior Class to complete a financial aid application form to receive a High School Graduation Diploma.

School Bus outside New Jersey High School
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Here's What You Need To Know About This New Requirement

According to guidelines by the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA), students and their parents must complete and submit either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application. Also, School Districts will be required to annually notify parents and guardians of students of these requirements.  New Jersey High Schools and Charter Schools will be required to offer guidance and instructions on how to complete these financial aid applications along with the process of submitting them to meet graduation requirements.

Here is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's explanation for why he signed these requirements into state law:

“There are many state and federal resources available to graduating high school students to help make a college education more affordable - Without filling out important applications, students could unknowingly be leaving money on the table that could have enabled them to pursue higher education.  Ensuring high school students understand their options is paramount to our goal of making a college degree more attainable for New Jersey residents.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

So if you are a parent of children in High School or soon to enter that level of the education system in New Jersey, make sure you have all the information you need moving forward.  There are examples in the past of High School Diplomas being withheld from New Jersey students because they could not pass the Proficiency Examinations.  The application process for Financial Aid is much easier than the HSPA (I know from personal experience) so this seems like an easy requirement that everyone can meet.

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