TRENTON, NJ— Some county college students around the state could attend classes in 2019 for free thanks to a new state pilot program.

The program, the Community College Innovation Challenge, is the first phase of the Gov. Phil Murphy's effort to provide two years of community college free for students across the state. It was officially launched yesterday.

“Having the opportunity to obtain a college degree was an instrumental part of my life, and in today’s job market, it’s a matter of fairness and equality. Making higher education attainable will help secure a successful future for our students and strengthen New Jersey’s workforce and economy,” said Acting Governor Shelia Oliver.

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The state’s 19 community colleges will have until Aug. 31 to apply for up to $20 million in Community College Opportunity Grant awards. 

Once county colleges are accepted into the program, students with an adjusted annual gross income between $0 and $45,000, and enrolled to take classes worth six or more credits in the spring 2019 semester, will be eligible to have their tuition covered by the new grant. The grants will cover all costs after any other federal or state grant aid is applied.

Colleges will be accepted into the program based on the colleges’ plans for outreach to and support for students, how their cost projections fit within statewide funding constraints, and geographic diversity.

Each college that submits an application will also be eligible be to receive a capacity building grant of at least $250,000 to plan for subsequent phases of the program.