A photo of Bloomfield College's George Talbot Hall, a red brick building with square cement-grey columns. Students mingle in the pathway near the entrance.

New Jersey residents pursuing college or job training may qualify for state financial aid. A forum hosted by the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University outlined state grant, scholarship, and loan programs with featured guest Executive Director of Higher Education Student Assistance David Socolow.

New Jersey residents and families can take advantage of these programs to make higher education more affordable regardless of if they are traditional students, adult students, or interested in job training. There are also programs to support undocumented residents seeking higher education degrees. 

Over 100,000 New Jersey higher education students received state-based aid or scholarships in the 2020-2021 school year, according to the Higher Education Assistance Authority. That amounts to more than $4 million in financial aid distributed – and available – to students throughout the state.

What are the first steps to finding financial aid in New Jersey?

People seeking financial aid for college or job training should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, to determine the amount of federal and state aid for which they qualify. The FASFA should be completed each academic year to maximize available aid. 

FAFSA applications must be submitted by Sep. 15 for terms beginning in the fall semester and Feb. 15 for those beginning in the spring semester. 

Federal aid available through FAFSA includes repayable Federal Direct Loans and grants like Federal Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants as well as Federal Work-Study programs.

New Jersey aid programs available through FAFSA include Tuition Aid Grants, Educational Opportunity Fund Grants, and NJCLASS loans.

Can I apply for FASFA as an undocumented New Jersey resident?

FASFA is a federal program for which undocumented residents do not qualify. But New Jersey has its own financial aid program for undocumented residents called the New Jersey Alterative Financial Aid Application

To be eligible for this program applicants must have:

  • Attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years
  • Graduated from a New Jersey high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma in New Jersey, like a GED
  • Are able to submit a statement that you have filed an application to legalize your immigration status or will file an application as soon as you are eligible to do so

This aid can also be combined with income based programs like the Community College Opportunity Grant and Garden State Guarantee, outlined below.

Can I go to community college in New Jersey tuition-free? 

The Community College Opportunity Grant covers tuition and mandatory fees at any of the state’s 18 community colleges for families or individuals with an income of up to $65,000. This grant is meant to pay any tuition costs that are not covered by federal Pell grants and other scholarships, grants, and aid the student has received. 

High school students that are academically in the top 15% of their graduating class qualify for the New Jersey STARS merit program, which covers the tuition for up to five semesters at their home county’s community college.

What other income-eligible assistance is available for New Jersey community colleges?

Students and families that make between $65,001 to $80,000 per year are eligible to have up to 50% of the cost of tuition and fees covered by the Community College Opportunity Grant after federal and state aid and local scholarships have been applied. 

How can I get help affording a bachelor’s degree after completing two years of community college? 

The Garden State Guarantee grant program provides students with an income of up to $65,000 who have completed their first and second years of higher education at community college and need financial aid for the third and fourth years at a public college or university grant money to cover any tuition costs that remain after federal, state, and other financial aid has been applied.

Students in families with an income of $65,001 to $80,000 who have completed two years of community college can receive a tuition discount of up to $7,500 on tuition and fees, approximately half the cost of tuition. Students must be enrolled full-time in order to qualify for the Garden State Guarantee.

What other state aid programs can help me get a four-year degree?

The Educational Opportunity Fund program provides grant funding and services for students that meet specific income and educational requirements. More than 40 state colleges and universities, community colleges, and private colleges and universities in New Jersey offer this program with grants ranging from $200 to $3,050 annually. Admission to this program is specific to the college or university. 

To be eligible for EOF students must:

  • demonstrate an educationally and economically disadvantaged background
  • be a New Jersey resident for 12 consecutive months prior to receiving the award
  • apply and be accepted to a participating New Jersey college or university
  • meet the academic criteria as set by the institution of choice
  • file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application.
  • and meet the income requirements based on household size

If your school accepts Common Applications, students can check a box on the application and complete supplemental material to apply for EOF.

Some schools require students to complete a separate application after being accepted to the school. Check with the financial aid office if your school doesn’t accept Common Application.

What grant programs can help pay for college in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s Tuition Aid Grant program has grants for students attending community colleges and public and private four-year colleges and universities in the state. This program awards grants based on income and is administered through FASFA and the NJ Alternative Financial Aid Application.

What programs can help pay for job training in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s Pay It Forward program provides zero-interest, no-fee loans to students enrolled in specific job training courses at select colleges and universities.

After completing the program, students who earn above minimum wage will begin loan repayment calculated to 10 percent of their income for up to five years. No interest is charged on loans and students do not have to make loan payments if they are unemployed or making less than minimum wage. After five years of repayment efforts, the remainder of the loan is expected to be forgiven. 

The programs that qualify for Pay It Forward as of February 2022 are:

What student loans can help me afford college? 

Students who have reached their annual federal student loan cap and have exhausted all other forms of financial aid but need more money to cover tuition can apply for New Jersey’s NJCLASS loans, which offer an interest rate between 3.75% to 7.15% compared to the federal Parent PLUS supplemental loan, which have an interest rate between 7.54% to 8.53% according to the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

To qualify for a NJCLASS loan families, must make at least $40,000 a year and have a minimum credit score of 670. Students who live in New Jersey and attend school out of state are also eligible for NJCLASS loans. 

NJCLASS loans can also be signed by the student with a co-signer who is a parent, relative, or eligible U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen. The federal Parent PLUS loan can only be signed by a biological or adoptive parent of a dependent undergraduate student.