TRENTON, NJ – Legislation that Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-18, sponsored to help make college more affordable by requiring undergraduate students enrolled in four-year public institutions of higher education to file a degree plan was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Higher Education panel.

The bill (A-2564) requires the degree plan be filed with the institution by the completion of 45 credit hours of course work. 

It also requires degree-seeking students enrolled in county colleges to file a degree plan upon entering the institution. 

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The bill defines “degree plan” as a statement of the course of study requirements that an undergraduate student at a public institution of higher education must complete in order to graduate.  A student’s degree plan must be developed in consultation with an academic advisor and must follow a pathway to a degree.

“This will help put students on a clearer path towards their intended goal and prevent them from getting lost in the shuffle of anonymity that often accompanies the earlier years of college,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This bill strikes a healthy balance by requiring students and colleges to work together to create a focused plan for degree attainment.”

The bill also requires public institutions of higher education to develop what are called pathway systems that establish graduation progress benchmarks for each academic major and for the general education program for students who have not declared a major. 

The pathway for each first-time degree-seeking student must include credit-bearing mathematics and English courses in the first 24 credit hours. 

The pathway for each degree-seeking student enrolled in a remedial course in mathematics, reading or English must include the credit-bearing course in that subject concurrent with or in the semester immediately following completion of the remedial course.

Under the bill, the graduation progress benchmarks established by a public institution of higher education must specify the credit and course criteria that indicate satisfactory progress toward a degree. 

Academic departments at the institution must establish schedules for periodic reviews of student progress, and students who are in danger of falling behind the graduation progress benchmarks will be required to consult with an academic advisor prior to course registration.