Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Assembly Oks Tuition Freeze

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Assembly Oks Tuition Freeze

Article excerpt

The state Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved seven bills -- including a popular tuition freeze -- that are part of a legislative package aimed at making college degrees more affordable and attainable.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee heard testimony related to five proposals to deal with sexual assaults on college campuses.

The bills on making higher education more affordable, however, are expected to stall in the Senate, where Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, last month indicated he wants to shelve the proposals for further study.

Sweeney said he was concerned that some of the measures may have "unintended consequences." He said he will propose the creation of a legislative task force to study higher education in the state, which is home to some of the highest public tuitions in the country.

Opponents -- including those representing the colleges and universities -- had warned that the proposed nine-semester tuition freeze guaranteed to incoming freshmen could wind up generating large hikes for subsequent classes, when administrators had nowhere else to turn in dealing with increased costs.

But the Democratic sponsors of the measure said it was time to put the brakes on rising costs, and they estimated the freeze, which would apply to public and private schools, could save students more than $10,000 by the time they graduated.

Annual tuition and fees at Rutgers and the state colleges range between $11,000 to more than $13,000, while it is well over $25,000 at most of the private colleges and universities.

"The present system is almost untenable for working and middle- class families," said Assemblyman Joe Cryan, the primary sponsor, in a news release. "Unless we find ways to make college more affordable and achievable, our higher education system will only serve to reinforce socioeconomic inequalities rather than reduce them."

Cryan, D-Union, had said the looming delay in the Senate would essentially kill the initiatives and took a swipe at Sweeney, who is thought to be eyeing a run for governor.

"If somebody wants to be a statewide leader, they have to realize that higher education costs and tuition are important to families in New Jersey," said Cryan. …

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