New Jersey doesn’t exactly have the best rep when it comes to helping its students pay for college.
A 2016 New York Times report revealed that those who borrowed directly from the state, via the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), faced an uphill battle. Loans had high interest rates, no borrowing caps, and “extraordinarily stringent” repayment rules.
But the state offers some assistance in the form of New Jersey grants.
The difference between grants and scholarships
The difference between grants and scholarships can be confusing, as the terms are used to describe similar money-gifting programs. Unlike federal and private student loans, grants and scholarships don’t need to be paid back. But a basic difference is that most grants are need-based, while most scholarships are merit-based.
Both are great ways to pay for college, but it’s important to know the difference so you understand why you might qualify for a scholarship but not a grant or vice versa.
4 New Jersey grants for college
Grant programs vary from state to state, but New Jersey is rare in that many of its grants can be used at any of the colleges in the state, including not only public universities but also private and community institutions.
In general, to be eligible for New Jersey grants, you must demonstrate financial need, be a legal resident of New Jersey for at least a year, maintain satisfactory academic standing, be a full-time undergraduate student, and not be in default on any federal or state student loans.
Here’s everything you need to know about New Jersey grants and how to apply.
1. Tuition Aid Grant
The Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) is available to undergraduate students in approved degree or certificate programs. It can cover up to the full cost of tuition. Awards range from $2,732 to $12,686 and are renewable annually. One-third of full-time New Jersey students qualify for this grant.
Eligibility: You must meet all the general criteria for New Jersey grants, such as having a high school diploma and demonstrating financial need. You also must be enrolled full time in an approved undergraduate degree or certificate program.
How to apply: You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including the New Jersey State Questions, to be considered for this grant.
2. Educational Opportunity Fund
The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) offers a grant that supplements TAG and provides aid to cover extra educational expenses, such as books, fees, and room and board. Undergraduate students can receive between $200 and $2,500 annually, and the grant is renewable.
Unlike some other New Jersey grants, this one is available at only 41 of New Jersey’s colleges, and each school decides who is eligible for program participation. Graduate grants of up to $4,350 are available as well.
Eligibility: In addition to meeting the general requirements for all New Jersey grants, you must demonstrate an economically and educationally disadvantaged background. You also must meet the academic criteria set by the school.
How to apply: Make sure your school of choice participates in the EOF program and fill out the FAFSA. Then, contact the EOF campus director to find out if you need to meet additional criteria, as program eligibility varies by school. They will inform you if you need to fill out additional paperwork.
3. Part-Time Tuition Aid Grant
TAG also offers the Part-Time TAG for county college students who are enrolled in six to 11 credits. The grant is prorated based on the number of credits you take, but it can cover up to the full cost of tuition.
Eligibility: You need to meet the requirements for the traditional TAG but must be enrolled at a New Jersey county college.
How to apply: It’s the same process as applying for TAG. You must fill out the FAFSA, including the New Jersey State Questions.
4. Governor’s Industry Vocations Scholarship
Although it’s called a scholarship, the $2,000-per-year award offered through the Governor’s Industry Vocations Scholarship is available to women and minority students attending an eligible school, and it isn’t merit-based. It was originally developed to benefit students pursuing a certificate or degree in a construction-related field, but the exact field of study is amendable.
Eligibility: You must be a female or a member of a minority group, which is defined by the state as someone who is black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, or Alaska Native. You also must attend an approved schools. Men must prove they registered with Selective Service. All other state grant requirements must be met, and your annual household income can’t exceed $60,000.
To be eligible for renewal, you must maintain a satisfactory academic record while in school.
How to apply: Start by filling out an application on the HESAA website. Then, file a FAFSA and make sure you’re enrolled at a qualifying school.
Applying for New Jersey grants
Even if you’re unsure whether you qualify for a state grant, you should apply to find out. It’s free money, after all, which can help you keep the cost of college down. Make sure you apply for other state and federal aid as well to ensure you’re getting the most financial aid possible.
If you’re still unable to cover the full cost of your education, consider private student loans.
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