The state Legislature could soon give final approval for a plan to expand a program that offers community college scholarships to the top students at every high school.

Under the proposal, the New Jersey HonorScholars Program would take the place of the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship, known as NJ STAR, which provides students ranked in the top 15% of their class in 11th and 12th grades scholarships to attend a community college.

The New Jersey HonorScholars Program would expand scholarship eligibility to the top 20% of high school grads.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, a prime sponsor of the New Jersey Honor Scholars Program legislation, and chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee said this is all about expanding opportunities.

“We want to bring more jobs into New Jersey. However, if you bring jobs into New Jersey you have to have an educated workforce," she said.

She noted many career opportunities exist for the next generation of workers with specialized skill sets.

“You want as many young people as possible to get a college degree, to decide where they want to go and be prepared and be ready.”

The legislation also stipulates the New Jersey HonorScholars Program would take over NJ STARS 2, a program that awards scholarship money for very high achieving high school students to a attend a state four-year public or independent institution, and allows high achieving county college students to complete their final two years of college at a four-year institution, with a maximum scholarship award of $2,000 per semester.

County college students would need to have a 3.25 grade point average to qualify for scholarships, and high school students would need to graduate in the top 10% of their class in order to be able to receive scholarship money to attend a four-year public or independent college or university.

 

“For years, people would say, 'college is not within my reach.' Well, now it is," Cunningham said.  "Doors have opened up and we’re doing things in a way that anyone who wants to go can go.”

The legislation has been approved by the Senate and could be passed in the Assembly in the coming weeks.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com