Gov. Murphy’s budget includes 2 years of free college tuition for low-income students

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Low-income college students could be eligible for two years of free college tuition under Gov. Phil Murphy’s latest state budget proposal.

The governor spoke more about this plan on Wednesday at William Paterson University.

“There is no other state in America that offers these programs. So, this is full-on Jersey,” he said.

Murphy’s budget includes $50 million to help pay for two years of college tuition for students at New Jersey’s 13 public colleges and universities. It is an expansion of the idea behind two years of free community college that is already helping thousands of students around the state pay for tuition.

“They could have theoretically gone tuition-free to get an associate’s degree, transferred to a four-year degree and gotten their junior and senior year tuition-free as well,” Murphy said.

The program still must be approved by the Legislature. Similar to the community college grants, it is for students with household incomes of $65,000 or less per year. But unlike those grants, the money will go directly to the universities.

RELATED: Gov. Murphy unveils $41 billion state budget in 3rd annual address 
RELATED: Gov. Murphy discusses his new $41 billion state budget with News 12 NJ 

“This is not one pitted against the other. This is all complimentary, and we are committed as ever to the Community College Opportunity Grant and we know that as more students find out about that, the program will grow over time,” says New Jersey Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith-Ellis.

But some of the state’s Republican lawmakers are not on board with the plan.

“Why is it 100% free?” asks state Assembly Majority Leader Jon Bramnick. “Why doesn’t the student have any skin in the game whatsoever? What about 20% the student pays? What about 30%?”

Bramnick and other Republican lawmakers criticized Murphy’s budget, and said that it would increase the cost of living in New Jersey.

“I think your average working person would say, ‘Hey look, I’m willing to help. But why 100%?’ Those are the kind of programs, I think, create a problem for the state,” Bramnick says.

But the governor says that investing in higher education is worth it for New Jersey.

“We’re generating the best in the nation. The key will be can they afford college? Is college accessible to them? Can we help them find their way through a degree in higher education?” Murphy said.

If approved, the governor says the two years of free tuition at four-year colleges won't be available until the fall of 2021.

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