Beyond Tuition: Easing The Financial Burden For New Jersey Students

The end of August is traditionally a time when parents go back-to-school shopping to purchase new supplies for the start of the school year in September. And while the cost of a new backpack, or new clothes and sneakers, can be quite expensive, it pales in comparison to the 5-digit tuition bills parents receive who are sending older children off to college...

For these students, they are seeking higher levels of education to hopefully set themselves up for future success. Yet, we all know it is becoming increasingly more expensive to attend college, with higher education costs rising and student loans leading to crushing and burdensome debt.
If you are wealthy, you might feel the pinch of the tuition bill, while the middle class finds itself struggling to bear its weight. And for those less fortunate economically, it can spell the difference between attending higher education and taking a pass.
College affordability and student loans are serious issues that affect millions of Americans. According to a 2018 Federal Reserve Bank of New York report, as many as 44.7 million Americans have student loan debt. The total amount of student loan debt was $1.47 trillion by the end of 2018 — more than credit cards or auto loans.

It is clear that student loans are hampering the financial future of more Americans than ever before. Consider this from studentloanhero.org:

“Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.”

It’s time to slow down the boulder of crushing educational costs. We must do something that will stymie these increases and to provide students with a smoother financial path.
I have introduced several bills that address these issues head on. They include:

Senate Bill, No. 4012. Prohibiting administrative fees. The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority is authorized to “establish and collect” certain fees from borrowers under the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan program. As I’m fond of saying, this legislation is not a giveaway. We support and expect students to pay their student loan. But we should also not penalize them financially with added costs. I would add that we always encourage young people to obtain the best education possible. These students are taking out loans to fulfill their career hopes and dreams. I don’t believe that we should punish them for their initiative. And I also believe that removing these fees is a demonstration of our support and encouragement.

Senate Bill, No. 1922. This bill allows for gross income tax deduction for amounts paid by employers for certain educational assistance programs that link to employees and their student loans. This program makes good business sense for employers, and at its essence, it is an incentive to encourage employers to provide “financial wellness,” and a benefit to employees without raising taxable salaries or wages. As I note in my legislation, “These forms of tax-free assistance can aid employees in meeting their current costs of pursuing their higher education goals while they hold a job and can also help to address high student debt facing the college-education workforce.”

If you’re wondering whether these seemingly incremental, positive attempts really help students, rest assured that they do. Just like a small change in your daily regimen for better health can make a difference, I believe the same holds true for a person’s fiscal regimen.

Many students and their parents are thinking about education costs at this very moment. The beginning of the academic year is around the corner, and millions of American students will face academic, social and personal challenges. They will also confront financial roadblocks. Doesn’t it make sense to help reduce the financial obstructions they will face?

That’s my take, what’s yours?


Showing 3 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Greg Setter
    commented 2019-08-26 10:27:38 -0400
    The main reason that higher education has increased at a rate far outstripping inflation is government involvement, specifically getting into the loan business. Higher education is about 5-6 times the cost of what it was 40 years ago after being adjusted for inflation. Why? Look no further than low cost student loans and incredibly easy access to them. One of the presidential candidates currently running and their spouse are both professors at the same institution. Between them they are being paid about $600K per year. I just took my daughter to college this weekend. Dorms are pretty much the same, the cost of room and board, inflation adjusted for my previous, is pretty much the same. The difference is in the tuition costs. If you want to see how a great public institution is run, look no further than Purdue University. No tuition increases in 6 years, because of a university president that knows how to manage and knows how to prioritize, and knows what is really important. An d while I appreciate your efforts, and believe that you are trying to help, as long as the racket continues the prices will keep spiraling upwards. And the last thing we all have to do is take care of our own. Nothing to me is more insulting than a governor that gives away money to those whom have no investment in our society, while putting the onus to pay for them on those of us who have. It is ridiculous and illogical, and is based on identity politics and not on reality. You should sponsor a bill to stop that.
  • Frank Friedman
    commented 2019-08-22 21:55:07 -0400
    Both bills look helpful. But in all the talk I have heard so far, I have not seen any analysis of why getting an education at some schools is so expensive, and why it is less so at other schools.

    Surely salaries are a part of the issue, as is the maintenance of the physical plant. Most if not all universities seem to feel they have societal obligation, such as providing programs to help the communities, cities and states in which they are located, providing substantial tuition assistance, assisting veterans make it through the four year programs, providing special needs students with appropriate assistance, providing education and training assistance to people in depressed area, etc. This is as it should be. However, I do not know how much of the cost these programs is borne by the school and how much is covered through industry can government grants. There are times when I feel that not enough such support is out there, so these programs have an institutional cost associated with them.

    The cost of college and university infrastructure required to meet the demands of government regulation and associated paper work. Much of the regulation is in place to protect the rights and privacy of the students we serve, but it would be nice if some of the compliance costs were covered by the regulators instead of being passed on to the schools and therefore the students.

    We need to know more about the sources of the costs, and NOT for punitive purposes, but for helping to meet assistance needs.

    Frank