Providing a college education for their kids is one of the two biggest, and most expensive, goals that parents usually have when we do sit down to discuss planning (the other is generally retirement). So, that often leads to discussion about college funding. The good news is, for families that reside in New Jersey with kids who would like to specifically attend a college or university in the state, there are a number of grants, scholarships and loan programs that can help lower or defer the cost. In some cases, one or a combination of these financial aid programs may not only help reduce the out-of-pocket cost of attending college, it could make getting a degree virtually free.
It’s important to note that good college planning can help maximize your chances at receiving financial aid, including the state aid we will discuss in this article. The first step in helping to ensure that you can qualify for the most financial aid (and therefore don’t pay more for college than otherwise necessary) is to implement strategies that help lower your expected family contribution (EFC) and position yourself at the right colleges to get the best aid package. Once you’ve created the best chance at qualifying for the most aid, the following programs can help close the gap between out-of-pocket costs that remain. Note that many of these programs are specific to residents of New Jersey (for current eligibility and award ranges, always contact the program directly):
- Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Grant: Available to both undergrads and those in graduate programs (Award range: from $200 up to $4,350). Recipients are from “educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”
- Govenor’s Urban Scholarship: Available to undergrads (Award range: $1,000). Recipients of this merit award rank in the top 5% of their high school graduating class and have a GPA of 3.0 or better at the end of senior year in high school. They also must have lived in specific cities/towns in New Jersey (currently 14 areas across the state, including Millville and Vineland).
- Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Scholarship (LEOMS): Available to undergrads (Award range: Cost Of Attendance minus other aid). Recipients are “dependent children of New Jersey law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.”
- NJ Govenor’s Industry Vocations Scholarship for Women and Minorities (NJ-GIVS): Available for certificate and degree programs (Award range: $2,000). Funding is limited and there are strict eligibility requirements.
- NJ Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS): Available to undergrads (Award range: Tuition only). Recipients rank in the top 15% of their class at the end of either their junior or senior year of high school. Covers tuition only for up to 18 college-level credits per semester, for up to five semesters. Students must attend their county college of residence, except in certain instances.
- NJ Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship II (NJ STARS II): Available to undergrads (Award range: Up to $2,500). Students who have accepted the NJ STARS scholarship and successfully complete the criteria to continue on to a four-year public or private college or university and also meet the family income limits, are eligible to receive the NJ STARS II scholarship.
- NJ World Trade Center Scholarship (WTC): Available to undergrads (Award range: $5,000). Recipients are eligible dependent children and surviving spouses of New Jersey residents who were killed in, injured in and died as a result of, or presumed dead as a result of, the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.
- Survivor Tuition Benefits (STB): Available to undergrads (Award range: Tuition only- up to $12,800). Recipients are “eligible chidren and surviving spouses of NJ firefighters, emergency service workers or law enforcement officeres who were killed in the line of duty…”
- Tuition Aid Grant (TAG): Available to undergrads (Award range: $576 to $$12,016). Grant that must be applied for each year. It’s based on student need, cost of attendance and availability of funding.
- Part-Time Tuition Aid Grant for County College Students: Available to undergrads (Award range: $568 to $1,942). Grant specifically for students with enrolled for between 6-11 credits attending a county college. It’s based on student need, cost of attendance and availability of funding)..
Many of these awards can be renewed annually, as long as the student continues to meet the financial need and other requirements. Beyond grants and scholarships, NJ families may also qualify for loans, like the:
11. New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS): Available to undergrads and graduate programs. (Award range: Cost Of Attendance minus other aid). Amounts vary as do repayment periods, deferral periods, interest rates and fees.
Remember, some of these programs are based on financial need, others are based on academic ability. For academic financial aid programs, you may need to do some serious academic planning to make sure your student stays on track. For those requiring demonstration of financial need, some strategic financial planning to make sure that your income and assets are best positioned to help give you the best chances at receiving favorable financial awards may be necessary. These programs require, among other criteria, that the recipient be a legal resident of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months prior to enrollment. It is also important to understand that qualifying for these awards does not guarantee that a student will be accepted at any particular college or university in the state.
The above financial aid awards are administered by New Jersey’s Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESSA).
12. HESSA also administers the state’s NJBEST 529 and scholarship program, which provides a tax-free scholarship ($500 to a maximum of $1,500), based on the amount of total contributions made for that student beneficiary ($1,200 to $3,600) and subject to other qualifications, such as having had the plan for at least four years and enrolling as a “first semester undergraduate or freshman at a New Jersey college or university”, and appropriation of sufficient funds by the state legislature.
The New Jersey BEST Scholarship provides a tax-free scholarship to beneficiaries of a NJBEST 529 College Savings Plan provided the beneficiary attends a college in New Jersey and the account has been open at least four years and contributions are $1,200 or greater.
In addition, there are other financial aid programs that are not just state based. These include:
- Federal Aid programs;
- Private Party financial aid sources (scholarships, grants and loans);
- Merit Aid available directly from colleges: Available to undergrads (Award range: varies up to full tuition); Merit Aid scholarships that are available at various colleges throughout New Jersey can often be found at the respective college websites.
- Sports Scholarships available directly from schools: Available to undergrads (Award range: varies up to full tuition). Sports scholarships are a process all unto itself and the best sources to start your research are often high school coaches and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
More resources on scholarships, grants, loans, college admissions, campus life can be found at RockCrest Financial’s College Planning Resources page. Feel free to contact us or schedule a meeting using our online appointment calendar.