⚫ Lawmakers want to tie financial aid applications to high school graduation

⚫ Students would be able to opt out of the requirement

⚫ Critics say the requirement may be an invasion of privacy

Have you been confronted yet by by the financial aid forms that can help you and your kid afford college?

New Jersey officials know that filling them out can be complicated, but they want to make sure students get it done.

Under a bill advanced by the Senate Education Committee, a high school student would not be able to graduate until a financial aid application for higher education has been completed and submitted.

“The student financial aid crisis is growing by the minute and students applying to colleges need all the assistance they can get,” said Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean. ”Requiring students to complete financial aid applications as a prerequisite for graduation could make students more knowledgeable about their financial aid options."

The measure is co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer.

Through the measure, education officials in New Jersey would be required to provide resources for districts, parents, and students on how to complete an application.

Schools in the Garden State say the bill has good intentions, but they're opposed to making the application a prerequisite for graduation.

Jonathan Pushman, director of government relations for the New Jersey School Boards Association, noted that filling out a financial aid application to offset the cost of higher education is not directly linked to student performance or achievement.

"It's simply not a precedent that we want to set," Pushman said. "Because if we put this as a graduation requirement, what comes next?"

According to the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, districts continue to explore ways to assist families with completion of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form, including events such as "FAFSA labs" and "financial aid night."

The requirement in the bill raises privacy concerns, Jamil Maroun, superintendent of the Manville School District, told lawmakers before they voted to advance the measure.

"Requiring all students complete the FAFSA may be perceived by many families as an invasion of privacy," Maroun said. "In addition to the financial information, it will also mandate that some of our families disclose their citizen status."

The bill allows students to opt out of the requirement. A waiver can be signed by the student's parent or guardian, or by the student if the student is at least 18 years old.

An Assembly version of the bill, which has more than a dozen sponsors and co-sponsors, cleared the full house in June.

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