TRENTON — In an effort to reduce higher education expenses for veterans, three Assembly members have introduced a bill to provide these servicemen and women with in-state tuition rates.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, said the New Jersey Tuition for Equality for America's Military (NJTEAM) Act, already allows certain veterans who live in New Jersey and attend a public institution of higher education to receive in-state tuition rates.

Mukherji said this bill would expand the pool of veterans who qualify for in-state tuition even if they didn't live in New Jersey long enough, outside of their military service. A veteran's spouse or child would also be eligible.

Veterans with service-connected disabilities who are eligible for GI benefits would also be added to the NJTEAM Act for in-state tuition.

He said the program would be funded with tax dollars but believes there would be a return on investment. This will help those veterans find good paying jobs, they'll pay taxes and this bill will make sure these veterans will not require additional social services that taxpayers would be paying for.

Mukherji said it makes sense to make sure veterans with service-connected disabilities have access to higher education and if helping more vets achieve this with the help of lower in-state education expenses, then it's a no-brainer.

"We are thanking our veterans for the tremendous sacrifices that they have made for our nation and our freedom," said Mukherji.

Assemblywomen Cleopatra Tucker, D-Essex, and Britnee Timberlake, D-Essex, are co-sponsors of the bill.

Tucker said tuition for higher education continues to be an extreme source of debt for veterans. The bill would help make these expenses more manageable.

"As the daughter of a retired sergeant who served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, I know firsthand how much our veterans sacrifice each day to protect us all. This bill is yet another way to thank our veterans for their service," said Timberlake.

The bill was introduced last month and awaits further consideration by the Assembly speaker.

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