Murphy Announces New Jersey’s First Step Toward “Free” Community College

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

CRANFORD – Ocean County College was one of thirteen community colleges chosen for Gov. Phil Murphy’s “Community College Innovation Challenge,” which will provide the institutions $250,000 grants each for student outreach, recruitment and support at no cost to more than 13,000 eligible students statewide.

The pilot program will start for the Spring 2019 semester. It was announced last Thursday.

“Today we are putting the dream of higher education within reach of more students and more families,” Murphy said. “Making community college tuition free will help New Jersey’s young people and working adults earn post-secondary degrees to advance their careers – and it will help build the talented workforce that is the engine of our state’s economy.”

All 19 county community colleges applied. In addition to OCC, 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; and Warren County Community College were chosen.

Students must be enrolled at least half time to be eligible to receive the Community College Opportunity Grants. Those grants will cover the costs of anything not paid for through other financial aid grants. Students from families with an adjusted gross income up to $45,000 are eligible. To remain eligible, students must maintain “satisfactory academic progress.”

“Our hope is that all 19 community colleges will benefit from learnings during this pilot phase,” Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education, said. “Every college submitted a unique, thoughtful, and creative application, with many good ideas for increasing access and affordability tailored to the students and communities that each college serves. Each and every college identified students within their communities who could be eligible for assistance through this program, and I hope we are able to learn from the pilot cohort so that we can extend the opportunity to students at every community college come fall 2019.”

“Students across our state will receive support from this crucial funding during the program’s inaugural semester,” David J. Socolow, Executive Director of HESAA, said. “For many students, the net price of community college remains out of reach even after accounting for the financial aid they could receive. Removing the barrier of tuition and educational fees can make the difference that enables students to complete their studies,” said Socolow.

Students at these community colleges who have already completed a financial aid application for Fall 2018 will be automatically considered for the grant. Students who have not yet filed for financial aid have until Feb. 15, 2019 to file. They can file at or