If any topic underlies the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it is its effect on education. School has started for some districts, and with Labor Day — the summer's final holiday — creeping in around the corner, more schools will open soon.
I read daily how our students must cope with the vagaries of attending school, especially at the college level. It has become a no man's land: open, close, how to open, should we start late or leave early? It's a new experiment with changing rules.
However, the first step that puts students on the path of higher education is ensuring that they have the means, support and options to succeed and meet their educational goals.
I have been active in introducing legislation that promotes, supports and protects our students. I understand that completing their higher education aspirations provides them with an extremely valuable entrée to a future career. It also provides a confidence boost that most young people need.
My broad range of legislative efforts includes:
Senate Bill No. 2466. Requires Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to suspend administrative wage garnishment, certain judicial proceedings, and payments on certain New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students loans during COVID-19 state of emergency.
Senate Bill No. 2375. Requires Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to suspend accrual of interest on certain New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan Program loans in deferment or forbearance.
Both of these bills, S2466 and S2375, ease the financial strain on students temporarily. We must not forget that in addition to the physical threats of the coronavirus, there is a mental health component. These bills will help to ameliorate the financial stress they would otherwise face.
Senate Bill No. 985. Provides that public institutions of higher education may only reduce students' institutional financial aid upon receipt of private scholarship under certain circumstances.
This bill does not remove financial aid from a student. It only reduces the amount from a public institution if that student has already received an equivalent amount from a private source. In short, the final amount should remain the same for the student. It is the source of the funding that changes. This practical step allows the public institution to retain some of its funds for other students.
Senate Bill No. 961. Establishes an annual grant program to recognize institutions of higher education that offer a comprehensive array of veteran programs and services. Is any group more worthy than our veterans? We would direct this grant to three public educational institutions that have done an exemplary job at establishing programs to assist veterans with a successful educational experience.
Senate Bill No. 2093. Expands scope of activities constituting hazing; increases penalties for hazing resulting in injury; requires institutions of higher education and public and nonpublic high schools and middle schools to adopt anti-hazing policies. (Hazing often involves imposing strenuous and often humiliating tasks during training or initiations.) I often speak about positive educational experiences. This bill prevents a negative, indeed, hurtful experience. We must ensure that educational institutions both adopt and enforce anti-hazing policies.
Senate Bill No. 2403. Requires Secretary of Higher Education, in consultation with various entities, to design a manufacturing career pathway to provide students with skills necessary to gain employment in the manufacturing sector. There are careers outside of the usual educational path. One is manufacturing, and we need a pathway that interested students can follow through their county colleges and vocational school districts.
I have provided only a brief sketch of these legislative initiatives. I had hoped that by providing a summary, you would understand my commitment to our students. The intent of these legislative efforts is to ensure that our students receive the support they deserve as they pursue their educational goals.
That's my take, what's yours?