NJSTARS and NJSTARS II – Keeping the Best and Brightest in New Jersey

By E. Michael Angulo, Esq.

New Jersey has a strong commitment to educational excellence.  Few states can compare with New Jersey in terms of the amount of resources devoted to high quality public education.  A highly educated populace is essential if New Jersey is going to sustain a robust workforce ready to compete in the global economy.

To this end, Governor Jon S. Corzine and the Legislature have supported the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II program to ensure that our best and brightest students, regardless of economic circumstances, are able to pursue their higher education in New Jersey.

First established in June 2004, the NJSTARS program covers tuition and approved fees for attendance at a New Jersey community college for students graduating in the top 15 percent of their high school class.   NJSTARS recognizes the importance of acquiring an education beyond the high school level, the need to produce and retain a well-trained and educated workforce, and the ability of the State’s community colleges to strengthen the State’s economy.  Since 2004, nearly $35 million has been awarded under the program.

In an effort to encourage and assist NJSTARS students to obtain their four-year degree in State, in 2006, the NJSTARS II program was created.  The NJSTARS II program allows NJSTARS students graduating with at least a 3.25 grade point average (GPA) from their community college to continue their education at a four-year public college in New Jersey.  To date, over $8.7 million in NJSTARS II scholarships have been awarded.  Under NJSTARS II, awards are based on tuition; however, for students receiving a Tuition Aid Grant, the award is based on tuition and approved fees.  Award amounts are also based on the student’s GPA. Students with a GPA between 3.25 and 3.50 can receive up to $6,000 per year and those who have GPAs greater than a 3.5 can receive up to $7,000 per year.

To address the unprecedented growth of the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, in 2008, the programs were modified to enhance eligibility requirements and to make the program fiscally sustainable particularly in the face of the State’s difficult budget situation.  The changes to the NJSTARS program include:

  • Covering up to 18 credits per semester for those students who choose to accelerate their degree program
  • No longer funding remedial course work
  • Requiring students to pass an academic placement exam
  • Imposing a income cap of $250,000 on families

Changes to NJSTARS II includes:

  • Applying a tiered scholarship amount based on GPA
  • Limiting the obligation of participating State and public colleges to 50% of the NJSTARS II scholarship
  • Imposing a $250,000 family impose cap

Analysis of NJSTARS students shows their performance, as measured by grade point average and the number of degree credits earned, is higher than other full-time students at New Jersey institutions.  NJSTARS scholars also show a higher retention rate than their peers.  Most importantly, the majority of these high achieving students are expected to remain in New Jersey after graduation, sustaining our highly educated workforce, and investing in the State.  Through programs like NJSTARS and NJSTARS II, New Jersey is in a strong position to compete globally in the 21st century.

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E. Michael Angulo, Esq., is Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority Since 1959, the Authority, which administers the NJSTARS and NJSTARS II programs, has delivered over $18 billion in state and federal financial aid for more than 1 million students.  Annually, HESAA presents workshops, training programs and other outreach events to thousands of students, parents, guidance counselors and financial aid professionals in an effort to help them understand the benefits of higher education in New Jersey and the resources available to make that education affordable.

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