Assembly Democratic Bill to Help Students Facing a Medical Condition or Family Death to Maintain NJ
(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Wayne P. DeAngelo, Mila Jasey, Gordon Johnson, Gabriela Mosquera, Joann Downey, Andrew Zwicker and Pamela Lampitt sponsored to let NJ STARS and NJ STARS II scholarship recipients who suffer a medical condition or death of a parent or spouse to retain their program eligibility was recently approved, 33-0, by the full Senate on Friday. The bill (A-2565) allows NJ STARS and NJ STARS II scholarship recipients to maintain program eligibility in the event that medical condition or recent death of a parent or spouse prevents enrollment as full-time student. "This is the decent thing to do," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "College is the gateway to a brighter future, and for many students, these scholarships are a lifeline. No one should lose their eligibility because they must deal with a medical condition or tragic loss." "We should be removing all obstacles to a higher education not further burdening them with the threat of losing their scholarship while facing a medical condition or a family death," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This legislation protects students in their most vulnerable state and ensures them the opportunity to continue their education under the NJ STARS scholarship program." Under current law, a recipient of an NJ STARS or NJ STARS II scholarship must maintain status as a full-time student unless on a medical leave or emergency leave or unless called to partial or full mobilization for state and federal active duty as a member of the National Guard or a Reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States. "Unexpected situations arise in life," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "Nothing, if we can help it, should disrupt a student's education, especially those who have earned a scholarship for commitment and excellence to their studies." "This bill supports students who may experience a change in life that requires them to take on fewer courses," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Things happen in life. It is only right that their scholarship money remain intact as they work through a medical condition or family loss." "We should always encourage students to continue their education, not discourage," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "To lose a scholarship can mean the difference between pursuing collegiate goals and not pursuing them. This bill gives comfort during unexpected times in life by enabling students to keep their scholarship and continue their education." "NJ STARs scholarship recipients have worked hard to get to where they are and deserve every opportunity to succeed in college," said Downey (D-Monmouth) "With this bill, students will be supported and reassured during their time of need that their scholarship and place at the school will still be there when they return." "Ensuring these students the opportunity to achieve their educational goals is the least we can do, especially during the difficult times," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). "This is the right thing to do for the students in the NJ STARS program and for their families." "These students are a part of NJSTARS for a very good reason - educational excellence," said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). "This legislation gives them time to address an unexpected life circumstance and continue to pursue their dreams of attaining a college degree under scholarship." The bill provides that a student who receives a scholarship or is already in the program is eligible to take less than 12 credits in a semester if the student presents to the institution at which the student is enrolled a written note from a physician or other licensed health care professional indicating the student's need to take a reduced number of credits due to a physical or mental health condition. A student who receives a medical exemption from the full-time course of study requirement will be eligible for additional semesters in the scholarship program, as necessary. The bill was released by the Assembly Higher Education Committee on February 4 and approved by the Assembly on April 7, 71-0. It will now go to the Governor for further consideration.