Bill to require reporting of TAG recipients’ graduation rates advances

TRENTON – The Senate Higher Education Committee released a bill Thursday that would authorize collecting of data on graduation rates of Tuition Aid Grant recipients.

S2649 would require the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to annually post the graduation rates of state tuition aid grant recipients on its website. It passed 4-0 after a discussion on its merits.

The information will include the two-year, four-year, and six-year average graduation rates of recipients for county colleges, public and independent colleges and universities, and proprietary degree-granting institutions; and the graduation rate for grant recipients at each institution of higher education and each proprietary degree-granting institution.

The purpose is to provide greater transparency in the TAG program by evaluating the success of grant recipients in obtaining an academic degree.

Sen. Robert Singer said the intent is excellent, but it will not be a simplistic process because statistical data is captured differently at the state and federal levels.

He said they must be careful to avoid having a situation in which critics use the information collected under this bill to say TAG does not work because of the number of students who graduated.  Because of  high cost and other factors many students can’t complete their degree in four or six years, so he urged a broader net, covering 10 years of data.

Sponsor Sen. Sandra Cunningham said the reason they proposed ending the data collection at six years is because the N.J. Higher Education Student Assistance Authority ends at six years, but Singer said there is another entity, SURE, for Student Unit Record Enrollment, that he said tracks data for the period he had in mind.

Cunningham said the purpose overall of the proposal is that they found a problem regarding minority or older students – who receive the bulk of the TAG funding –  who are not graduating. “We want TAG to be more accountable for helping students graduate,’’ she said.

Lynn Nowak of the N.J. Council on County Colleges urged an amendment to include capturing information on students who transfer from a county college to another institution, not just on those who graduate. 

Cunningham said the issue has turned out to be broader and more complex than at first thought and suggested that a hearing might be held on the matter.

The committee released other matters, all by unanimous votes.

S2695, which has bipartisan sponsorship, would create a body that would review N.J. college and university funding in other states and develop a report that recommends a higher education funding formula for New Jersey.

The commission would consist of 11 members including the secretary of Higher Education; five members appointed by the governor including representatives of the state colleges and universities, the public research universities, the county colleges, the independent colleges and universities, and one public member; and one member each to be appointed by the Senate president, Assembly speaker, and the minority leaders in each chamber.

The original bill would have had 10 members. It was amended to add the executive director of the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.

S2945, a house-cleaning measure related to the legislation that enabled the massive higher-education reorganization.

It would increase from six to eight the number of members needed to constitute a quorum on the Rutgers Board of Governors.

SR104: Commends Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer for 900 wins in women’s college basketball. It passed unanimously.

Bill to require reporting of TAG recipients’ graduation rates advances