College Affordability Study Commission Session

As you know, our Fall Conference is fast approaching. If you have not already registered, do so now!

You can register at Among the many useful sessions that will be taking place at the conference, we will have a general session entitled, “Meet the CASC: The College Affordability Study Commission” at the conference on Thursday, November 12. The CASC was set up by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by the Governor this past February. They have met regularly ever since, gathering information and discussing different ways to make college more affordable for students and their families. The Chair of the Commission, Dr. Frederick Keating, President of Rowan College at Gloucester County, and Dr. Peter Mercer, President of Ramapo College, have agreed to speak to us and take our feedback at a general session.


This is a valuable opportunity for NJASFAA members to help the CASC and to assist in shaping higher education-related legislation moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say about college affordability. So to get this conversation started, we are posing some questions for discussion, both here on the list-serve and on NJASFAA’s news blog NJASFAA 411. If you have not previously used the blog, please go to to register.


Our first question is about merit- vs. need-based aid. Some other states spend a higher percentage of their aid dollars on merit-based aid for in-state students. Should NJ look to expand the use of merit-based aid? Right now, the need-based NJ Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) Program is one of the most generous in the nation. In addition to this, programs like STARS and STARS II allow for valuable merit based aid for students who met certain criteria. These programs and others seem to provide excellent access to higher education. But does NJ have the right mix of need- and merit-based aid? Would changing this mix have any impact on making college more affordable in NJ?


What are your thoughts about need and merit-based aid as they relate to college affordability? Let us know here and let’s have a discussion.


1 thought on “College Affordability Study Commission Session

  1. Hi Mike, thanks for your post and question.

    Having worked in financial aid for many years in New Jersey and having served as the liaison to the Undergraduate Admissions office in scholarship awarding as well as the point person for the Outstanding Scholars Recruit Program (who remembers that??) and the Distinguished Scholars Program at Montclair State, I would argue for more need based aid and an expansion of TAG so that it can benefit a greater number middle class families (and there may need to be rethinking of middle class). I find many families with incomes below $80,000 who are left with few options other than student loans. The OSRP and Distinguished Scholars program successfully helped recruit high achieving students, however, these students were not always the ones with the highest need and they had more options regarding school choice. They also often qualified for merit funding from their institution of choice thus duplicating merit awards. There are students who fall just below merit based scholarship grids and come from families with yearly incomes of $65,000 and do not qualify for any federal or state grant funding. That said, I think the Governors Urban Scholars program is a step in the right direction acknowledging the achievements of students from a variety of NJ communities.

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