Editorial: New proposal cuts higher education

New Jersey ranks 50th in the nation in opportunities to receive higher education. Yes, we’re worse than Mississippi. The good news is there are only 50 states, so we can’t slip any lower. The bad news? Despite Gov. Chris Christie’s listing as his top priority for higher education “keeping New Jersey students in New Jersey,” he is shredding state support for colleges and college students.

With the troubled economy, it was only a matter of time until financial aid would be affected. Unfortunately, that time is now. Christie has proposed a plan to help ease the financial burden of our state’s debt, but it’s higher education funding that’s going to suffer in order to help that debt. Incoming freshmen will now have to worry even more about finding money to go to school if they choose to go to a school in New Jersey. Government programs meant to aid students in paying for college have been reduced, and in some cases, eliminated altogether.

Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) and Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) awards are two programs that will see their amounts reduced if Christie’s plan goes through. These two programs are aimed towards students with strong grades, but with low family incomes. NJ Stars, which allows students in the top 15 percent of their class to go to a community college for free, will be stopped altogether. Stars has become a program on which many students rely heavily, and taking it away may prevent some students from attending college altogether.

Luckily for current students, this cut will only affect incoming freshmen, so anyone already in college will not have to worry about losing the aid that they receive now. This is perhaps the only good point of Christie’s plan.

Rider has taken it upon itself to anticipate any potential problems with this new plan. To prepare for students having less money to go to school, Rider has increased its budget for financial aid in order to replace what was lost. Unfortunately, this probably means that financial aid from Rider will be slightly harder to get since even more people will need it.

Education should always be a top priority. So it doesn’t make sense that Christie wants to make such huge changes to how students make their decisions about where to go to school. With even less money to go around than before, high schoolers will feel limited in where they should apply. The decision will now be based on what they can afford out of pocket, and not how much it will cost after they receive financial aid. On April 19, a public hearing will be held by the New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee. Students and faculty are urged to give testimony and participate in a protest. To give testimony, contact Professor Judith Johnston at johnston@rider.edu.

This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.

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