TRENTON, NJ --  To continue efforts to make college more affordable and accessible for high achieving students, lawmakers, including Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), are revising the current New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) and creating a new scholarship program.

Under the current NJSTARS program, students who ranked in the top 15 percent of their junior or senior class are eligible to receive free tuition for up to five semesters at their county college.

"Since 2004, NJ STARS has helped so many students live their dream of going to college," said DeAngelo. "As tuition and college expenses continue to rise, it's time for us to improve this program so that more students can benefit."

Sign Up for Hamilton/Robbinsville Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The new measure expands eligibility for New Jersey high school students ranked in the top 20 percent of their 11th or 12th grade class to receive college scholarships.  The current NJ STARS and NJ STARS II programs would become part of a new initiative created under this bill called the New Jersey HonorScholars program.

The new program would offer scholarships of $2,000 each semester for students to attend four-year higher education institutions in New Jersey. Students who received a county college scholarship from the HonorScholars program and graduated from a county college, as well as attained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 upon graduation, would be eligible for scholarships for up to four semesters, excluding summer sessions.  Students who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school graduating class would be eligible for New Jersey HonorScholars scholarships for all four years of college, up to eight semesters excluding summer sessions.

Eligibility for the New Jersey HonorScholars program would require students, who are New Jersey residents to: have an annual family income, both taxable and non-taxable, as derived from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year, of less than $250,000;  ave applied for all other available forms of State and federal need-based grants and merit scholarships, exclusive of loans, the full amount of which grants and scholarships would be applied to tuition to reduce the amount of any scholarship that the student receives pursuant to the program;  be enrolled in a full-time course of study and maintain a 3.0 grade point average; and maintain continuous enrollment in a full-time course of study, unless on medical leave due to the illness of the student or a member of the student's immediate family or emergency leave because of a family emergency, or unless called to partial or full mobilization for State or federal active duty as a member of the National Guard or a Reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Students receiving a scholarship under NJ STARS in their first year of study at a county college, or in the NJ STARS II program in their third year of study, would continue receiving the scholarship.

The measure was passed on Thursday by the  Assembly Higher Education Committee on Thursday approved legislation.  The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment.