State budget talks face standstill in community college funding dispute
Gov. Phil Murphy and the state Legislature are in disagreement over how much funding to give community colleges in this year's state budget.
The tuition program started last year as a way to help students get free tuition.
The governor wants to nearly double the money the state spends on it, while lawmakers are proposing a smaller increase of $5 million.
In a letter to the Legislature, Murphy called the lower funding level "indefensible and needless."
"These students, by design, are those who need assistance the most," Murphy said. "Lower-income residents desperate for the promise of a better job and brighter future that a college degree can make possible."
The state grants pick up any leftover costs not covered by financial aid programs and they are guaranteed for two years.
Community college officials say they are grateful that the program exists.
"We're hopeful that they will reach agreement somewhere on that financial aid pool," said Ed Johnson of Brookdale Community College. "....This program is needed here. It is beneficial to our students and very helpful to community colleges, as well."
Brookdale Community College was accepted into the tuition grant program at the end of April but has already given out $400,000 worth of awards to help students fully fund their college tuition.
The New Jersey Legislature is set to vote on its budget Thursday.
During a gun safety event in Westfield, the governor spoke to the possibility of rejecting the Legislature’s budget by June 30 and face a state government shutdown.
"Everything is on the table," Murphy said. "Literally soup to nuts. The whole spectrum is on the table."