January 28, 2024

New Graduation Requirement for NJ High School Students

On January 16, 2024, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill (A1181/S2054) to make completion of a financial aid application form a prerequisite to graduation for public high school and charter school students.

What You Need to Know

This new requirement will commence with the Class of 2025 (current high school juniors) and remain in effect for two school years thereafter. Students and their families will be required to complete and submit either the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the NJ Alternative Financial Aid Application to receive their high school diploma.

School districts will annually notify students and their parents of this requirement. The New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority plans to provide schools, parents, and students with instructions on how to complete financial aid applications through webinars, presentations, documents, and other resources. School counselors will be tasked with sharing these resources with students and their families.

Students and their families may submit a waiver requesting an exemption from this requirement. How the exemption process will work is still to be determined.

 

The Driving Factor for this New Graduation Requirement

The FAFSA is used as a baseline for nearly every determination of financial aid for students who qualify, but tens of thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year for undergraduate and associate degrees and technical or career schools.

New Jersey’s class of 2022 high school graduates left $92 million in unclaimed federal Pell Grants on the table, according to the Washington, D.C., based National College Attainment Network. High school graduates in 2021 left $89 million unclaimed for the same grants. This number does not include other forms of unclaimed aid.

A dozen states have passed similar laws, the National College Attainment Network says. Oklahoma and Connecticut have opt-outs similar to New Jersey’s. Most began passing these laws during the pandemic, when college enrollment dropped.

What You Need to Do Next

While students and their families do not have any immediate actions to take, it is never too early to start the conversation around cost of and payment for college. With the average cost per year over $55,000, according to Education Data Initiative, planning for college early in high school can help reduce the overall cost.

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At Class 101, we know navigating the college planning and admission process can be overwhelming. Our mission is to help students and families find the best college for them – academically, personally, and financially. Ready to begin your journey to college? Schedule a personalized consultation with a college advisor.

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