Mercer County Community College will be launching an expanded free community college program for the upcoming academic year, made possible through additional funding for the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program in the 2019-20 New Jersey state budget, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last week.
Under the new guidelines, households with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less are eligible, and the program has been expanded to dependent students who are attending college part-time, as well as fees for nursing, culinary, and other career and technical education programs.
“This action by the Legislature and Gov. Murphy is a tremendous step toward making a quality college education accessible to all,” said MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang. “We have a tremendous under-served population who face substantial economic challenges, and this program breaks down barriers. It has the power to change lives.”
Almost a year ago, Murphy announced that MCCC and 12 other New Jersey community colleges would share in a $25 million grant for a CCOG pilot program, the first step in providing a community college education to all New Jersey residents. This initial grant was limited to students with household incomes of less than $45,000. The expansion, Wang said, creates options for economically-disadvantaged families in the region who struggle with the rising cost of a college education.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for those who dream of a college degree and a rewarding career, who are willing to put in the work, but face financial obstacles,” Wang.
CCOG is a “last dollar” grant, meaning it will cover remaining costs after all other financial aid has been applied. Students must maintain satisfactory grades to remain eligible.
MCCC has already begun outreach to eligible students and processing their applications for the 2019-20 academic year. During the spring 2019 semester – the first semester for the CCOG program – more than 200 students enrolled in classes at MCCC thanks to CCOG.
“This program will have a substantial, positive impact throughout the region,” Wang said. “Employers will now have access to a highly-skilled workforce, and as businesses grow and prosper, the beneficiaries will be those who live and work in Mercer County. But most of all, we will see a substantial benefit for families and students, who can receive the education they need to succeed without crushing student loan debt.”