EDISON - STARS, the program that helped make college affordable for some of the state's brightest students, has suffered drastic cuts in funding.

The program provided free tuition at county colleges for any student in the top 15 percent of their class. It also covered up to $7,000 in tuition for those students' final two years of education at any four-year university in the state.

The state funding for the program has dwindled to just $2,500. Many students who qualified for the program at the beginning of their studies worry there will be no money left by the time they reach their last two years.

The STARS program started eight years ago. At one time, it covered 100 percent of in-state tuition at a New Jersey four-year institution for eligible students who successfully completed two years at a community college.