On Monday, March 14th, the Assembly Higher Education Committee considered A- 1181 (Jasey), legislation that would make the filing of the FAFSA a high school graduation requirement for all students beginning in the 2022-23 school year. The bill requires all local boards of education and charter schools to make this a high school graduation requirement with the goal of providing all students with information on college affordability in order to increase their future options after high school.
Under the bill’s provisions, students who is 18 or his/her parents, can seek a waiver from this requirement by simply requesting this waiver from the school district on a written form. The school counselor will also have the ability to authorize a waiver if the student is unable to get a signed waiver form from the parent and does not file. The Commissioner of Education will develop regulations on the circumstances the school counselor can seek waivers for students.
The Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), in consultation with the Commissioner of Education, shall provide a list of resources for school districts, parents and students that include instructions on how to complete the FAFSA. Additionally, the Executive Director of HESAA must make resources available to school counselors or other school employees.
At the Assembly Higher Education Committee, NJPSA Director of Government Relations Debra Bradley raised significant concerns with this legislation in its testimony. The association was able to obtain some important amendments to the bill in its first hearing which include:
- Language that clarifies that the legislation does not require school counselors or other school employees to assist students in completing the financial aid application;
- No adverse action shall be taken by a board of education or board of trustees of a charter school against any student who is exempted from the requirement to complete and submit a financial aid application;
- Language detailing the obligation of HESAA to provide resources and manpower to train students and parents on the filing of financial aid applications; and
- Bill language specifically stating that no private cause of action agains a school district or the state shall be created as a result of compliance or non-compliance with the provisions of this act.
NJPSA was joined by the NJ School Boards Association, the Garden State Coalition of Schools and the NJ Association of School Administrators in raising concerns with this legislation. The bill will now be considered by the Assembly Education committee.