Essex County News

Measures to Support Parents Pursuing Higher Education Gain Assembly Panel Approval

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TRENTON, NJ - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Marlene Caride to help ensure that parents pursuing higher education in New Jersey have access to the services and accommodations they need, was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday. The four measures were released by the Assembly Women and Children Committee, of which Lampitt is chair.

“Women who are pregnant or have children—many of whom also work—face unique challenges as they pursue their education that their professors and peers may not even realize limit their capacity to succeed,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “These bills will make it easier for parents to earn a degree so that they can better provide for their children.”

“Too often, parents who want to seek out the qualifications that will make them more marketable to employers find that difficulties in finding adequate child care or taking time off from coursework put them at an academic disadvantage,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This legislation is about making sure that students with children don’t feel that they have to compromise their studies in order to care for their families.”

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“Some schools do not even realize that student-parents are enrolled on their campuses, nor do they understand the obstacles that these parents may encounter due to the lack of accommodations,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Just as New Jersey has made an effort to ensure that working parents may be both good mothers and fathers and good employees, college students with children need to know that they will have the resources and accommodations they require to succeed.”

The bills:

A-4264 (Lampitt): The bill would prohibit institutions of higher education from requiring a graduate student to take a leave of absence, withdraw from a graduate program or limit her studies due to her pregnancy or issues related to her pregnancy. Institutions also would be required to develop, adopt and distribute policies regarding pregnancy discrimination.

The measure also would require schools to provide pregnant graduate students with reasonable accommodations, for example allowing the student to maintain a safe distance away from hazardous materials or make up examinations missed due to pregnancy-related issues, for the successful completion of coursework and research.

Additionally, under the bill, a graduate student who chooses to take a leave of absence because she is pregnant or recently has given birth would be allowed a minimum of 12 months to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations. The normative time to degree, while in candidacy for a graduate degree for a pregnant graduate student, would be increased in an amount equal to the length of the leave of absence, unless a longer extension is medically necessary.

The bill would allow a graduate student taking a leave of absence, due to a child’s birth, who is not the birth parent, to take a minimum of one month to prepare for preliminary and qualifying examinations in order to care for his or her partner or child.

A graduate student in good academic standing, who takes a leave of absence, would return in good academic standing under the bill.

Provisions of the bill would first apply to the 2015-2016 academic year.

A-4482 (Lampitt/Jasey/Caride): The bill would prohibit institutions of higher education from requiring students with children to purchase meal plans, live in on-campus housing or pay campus gym fees.

Provisions of the bill would first apply to the 2015-2016 academic year.

A-4483 (Lampitt/Jasey/Caride): The bill would prohibit institutions of higher education that provide child care from charging a student who receives a child care voucher under the “New Jersey Care for Kids Program” an amount that exceeds the voucher amount. The program assists families within certain income guidelines with the cost of necessary child care services.

A-4484 (Lampitt/Jasey/Caride): The bill would require institutions of higher education to inquire about a student’s marital and parental status before the fall and spring semesters of each academic year. No student would be required to provide the information, which would solely be used for demographic purposes, under the bill.

Schools would submit the collected information to the Secretary of Higher Education, who would prepare a related report within 18 months of the effective date of the bill.

The sponsors noted that having such information available would better enable schools to provide the student population with the appropriate services.

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