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NJ Launches Community College Innovation Challenge

New Jersey’s 19 community colleges have the chance to apply for a new pilot program launched Tuesday under Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.

Dr. Zakiya Smith EllisDr. Zakiya Smith Ellis

Under Murphy’s proposed Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) Program, the state’s community colleges can apply to become a CCOG Pilot School through the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC). The initiative will expand access to a free community college experience by providing a “last-dollar” scholarship for students attending selected institutions beginning next spring.

“All too often, the cost of college prevents students from earning the postsecondary credentials they need to boost their careers,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education, in a statement posted online. “This initiative is an important step in improving affordability for thousands of community college students, increasing their likelihood of completion and strengthening the talent pipeline for the state’s economy.”

New Jersey’s 2019 fiscal year budget includes $25 million for the CCOG program.

Of that total, $20 million will be used for CCOG awards that goes directly to the accounts of students with an adjusted gross income under $45,000 and who take six or more credits at selected CCOG Pilot Schools. The exact amount a student receives in awards will be their total remaining balance of spring 2019 tuition and fees after any federal, state and institutional aid is applied to their account.

County colleges will receive the remaining $5 million offered by the CCOG program in the form of grants to enhance planning, outreach and recruitment of eligible students.

Further, every community college submitting a CCIC application also will receive a $250,000 grant. For selected CCOG Pilot Schools, the grant supports implementation of the CCOG program. For colleges that do not get selected, funding can be used to “build capacity for future iterations” of the initiative, according to a notice of fund availability.

Colleges have until August 31 to submit an application for the Community College Innovation Challenge. The Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority will notify the inaugural cohort of CCIC colleges of their selection in early fall 2018.

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