Cunningham bill to help college students with COVID-19-related financial woes clears senate

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A bill in the New Jersey Senate sponsored by Sandra Cunningham (D-31) that would help college students deal with COVID-19-related financial woes was approved on Monday.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“College students are under insurmountable pressure right now. Many are struggling to manage the shift to online classes and, like all of us, they are coping with COVID-19 and the countless ways it’s impacting day to day life,” Cunningham, the chair of higher education committee, said in a statement.

“The last thing they should have to worry about is how this will impact their financial aid eligibility or if they need to return funds they may have already spent. Hopefully, this legislation can bring them some peace of mind during these trying times.”

Under Bill S-2356, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA)would exclude the 2020 spring semester from a student’s total lifetime eligibility for all state financial aid programs, if the student was unable to complete the semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the bill, if the institution had already disbursed the student’s state financial aid and the student withdraws or reduces their course load due to the public health crisis, HESAA would waive the amounts that the student is required to return.

Furthermore, the bill would provide that any changes to pass/fail grading do not impact a students’ eligibility for NJSTARS, under their GPA requirement.