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The New Jersey Business & Industry Association yesterday testified in favor of four bills designed to make college more affordable and ease the debt burden many students face upon graduation. All four measures were released by the committee.

Testifying before the Senate Higher Education Committee, NJBIA Director of Technology and Workforce Development Tyler Seville said, “An affordable post-secondary education is critical for the state economy. Post-secondary institutions help individuals become more likely to be employed and more productive employees. Despite the fact that New Jersey already touts a highly credentialed population, employers continue to need skilled employees to compete in our global economy.”

Seville said employers want job applicants with a post-secondary education, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. According to NJBIA’s 2016 Business Outlook Survey, 80 percent of businesses said they were as likely to recruit from a community college and 74 percent from a county vocational school as they were a four-year college or university.

“It is clear from our perspective not every New Jersey resident needs to pursue a four-year degree immediately after graduating high school to be successful in finding meaningful employment,” Seville said.

The measures supported by NJBIA are:

  • S-2484, which allows a gross income tax deduction for certain student loan interest;
  • S-2618, which requires institutions of higher education to enter into collective statewide reverse transfer agreements;
  • S-2621, which allows students to use tuition assistance grant awards during summer session; and
  • SR-84, which urges establishment of additional bridge agreements between county colleges and four-year institutions.

“We applaud the work of the New Jersey College Affordability Study Commission and appreciate the legislators who have drafted legislation based on their recommendations,” Seville said. “Moving forward, we would like to offer some additional concepts to think about when considering making college affordable.”

Seville presented three ideas:

  • Innovating for degree completion and employment through stackable credentials and flexible learning;
  • Creating greater accountability through outcome-based funding and finding efficiencies; and
  • Developing additional tools to manage existing debt through incentives to drive business tuition assistance and to help employers pay for student loans.

“As the premier business advocacy organization in the state, we take great pride in helping create a highly educated, highly skilled workforce for our employers and the State of New Jersey,” Seville said. “We are committed to bridging the existing skills gap, strengthening New Jersey’s workforce pipeline and ensuring students are ready for the world of work when the time comes.”