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Legislation requiring student debt transparency moving through NJ legislature

By Haley Nakonechny
Correspondent

Moving through the New Jersey Legislature currently is bill S-1877, which would require institutions of higher education to provide transparency on tuition and fees to prospective and current students.

With the bill being voted out of the Senate by a vote of 33-0 on Jan. 11, it is now awaiting Assembly approval before it gets sent to the Governor’s desk.

New Jersey state Senators Shirley Turner and Nellie Pou authored this legislation with the goal of helping students become financially independent after graduation by staying aware of their debt throughout college.

Under current law, the College and other universities across the state are only required to provide this information to prospective students and veterans as a means to lay out what their tuition will likely cost over the course of their time spent studying at college. If signed into law, this bill will change that going forward.

“The College Financing Plan is only required for Veterans and incoming freshman students,” said Luke Sacks, Head Media Relations Officer at the College. “Based on guidance we received from the NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority this past year and in anticipation that this law may be passed, we will make the College Financing Plan available to all students going forward as part of their official award notices.”

Due to this requirement, students do not currently receive this information again throughout their college career. As a result of this, many students graduate without true knowledge of what their debt entails. Changes in financial situations or length of studies can greatly affect the amount of debt a student will graduate with.

“It is important that we ensure our students are aware of their financial aid status throughout college, not just when they are entering college,” wrote Senator Nellie Pou in a press release regarding the bill. “A lot can happen over the course of four years and they should be aware of any changes that may be affecting them financially. Our hope is that college students will be more informed of their aid status and prepared to pay off their debt upon graduation.”

According to the Chamber of Commerce, 60% of students nationwide graduate with some form of debt. Currently, 44.5 million Americans have student debt. At the College alone, 5,216 students received financial aid for the 2020-21 academic year, which is 79% of the current undergraduate student population, according to Sacks.

With the current debt crisis reaching $1.5 trillion dollars, this legislation would help students be more financially aware of the debt they are incurring.

The bill would allow students to be more in tune with the debt they accrue throughout their studies (Envato Elements).

“[This bill] will assist them with their college budgeting process,” Sacks said. “Students will have a summary document that will include a breakdown of all potential costs for the upcoming academic year as well as a breakdown of any grants, loans and scholarships they are eligible to receive.”

In addition to outlining the aid, loans and scholarships for students, the bill would also include a breakdown of the following: tuition, room and board, student fees, books and materials, transportation and other relevant educational costs.

For students like junior art education major Hannah Coward, this legislation could be a great help to her if signed into law.

“It’s important to see a breakdown of tuition because it shows how what we pay is redistributed into the institution,” Coward said. “Knowing where my money is going will give me some peace of mind and helps me feel more prepared to pay it off after graduation.”

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