Last year Gov. Phil Murphy launched the first phase of a no-fee, tuition-free community college program.

During his state budget address on Tuesday, Murphy announced plans to expand the Community College Opportunity Grant program.

The existing $25 million dollar program paid tuition and fees that were not covered by federal and state need-based aid and merit scholarships for 13,000 students with incomes of $45,000 or less at 13 community colleges across the Garden State.

Now, Murphy is calling for an additional $33.5 million, which will allow a total of 18,000 qualified students to attend community college for free during the 2019-2020 academic year at all 19 community colleges in New Jersey.

“This is a wonderful game-changer for the people of New Jersey,” said Jacob Farbman, executive director of the New Jersey Center for Student Success and director of communications for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges.

He said community colleges play an important role in growing the state economy because they “provide opportunity to those who otherwise would not have that path toward opportunity.”

“It’s going to give people whether they are right out of high school or currently in New Jersey in the workforce or unemployed the opportunity to come back to school and earn a degree or credential that’s valued in the labor market," he said.

Farbman said what the Community College Opportunity Grant program does is “it speaks to those folks who feel like they’ve been left behind or left out, and they have an opportunity to come back and move up.”

He pointed out 3 million New Jerseyans currently in the workforce don’t have a college diploma but in order to be in the running for better paying jobs, they may need a post secondary credential or degree.

“What this program does is provide opportunity for all to get that critical post-secondary education they need so they can be successful in the workforce — and the more successful they are, the more attractive New Jersey will be in keeping businesses here and bringing new businesses here," he said.

The expanded program will require students coming out of high school to attend community college full time to qualify for the grant.

The community colleges that participated in the first phase of the program:

  • Atlantic Cape Community College
  • Bergen Community College
  • Camden County College
  • Cumberland County College
  • Hudson County Community College
  • Mercer County Community College
  • Middlesex County College
  • Ocean County College
  • Passaic County Community College
  • Rowan College at Gloucester County
  • Salem Community College
  • Union County College
  • Warren County Community College

The schools that will be added to the program if funding is approved:

  • Brookdale Community College
  • Rowan College at Burlington County,
  • County College of Morris
  • Essex County College
  • Raritan Valley Community College
  • Sussex County Community College

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

Sign up for the NJ1015.com Newsletter

Get the best of NJ1015.com delivered to your inbox every day.