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US: Free tuition at community colleges could help students graduate

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Students are exhausted from working to fund their tuition as well as trying to ace their exams. Source: Shutterstock.com

Many educators in New Jersey are keen to make tuition free at all 19 community colleges across the state in the hope it will help struggling students graduate quicker.

Governor Phil Murphy said backs the plan because the worry of tuition fees should not hold back any student who is dedicated to learning in the state.

Thousands of students and their families are plagued by the burden of tuition costs, working long and gruelling hours just to make ends meet.

Student Van Syjongtian, who has been living in the US for three years after leaving the Philippines, told New Jersey News 12 she dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. However, the weight of tuition costs is causing her to divide her time between work and school.

Syjongtian must work four nights a week just to cover the costs of her schooling, and her story is not unique.

Another New Jersey student Kaila Kopp-Baez sympathised, claiming she too had to split her time between working to cover fees and working to pass her exams.

“Around finals, I was still finishing up the semester and working,” she said. “I managed to get As and Bs. It was a lot but I got it done.”

Middlesex County College president Joann La Perla-Morales told New Jersey News 12 if free tuition was introduced, students could enter the workforce at a quicker rate.

“Some of our students take two, three, four, even up to six years to complete their education,” she said.

If tuition fees were eradicated, students would be able to spend less time at work and more time focused on their studies, allowing them to graduate sooner.

Four states in the US already offer free tuition programmes, however, critics have speculated New Jersey cannot afford to do so.

“It won’t be free, because the taxpayers will have more burden placed on them with the proposal,” State Senator Tom Kean Jr. said. “It will become more unaffordable to live in the state of New Jersey.”

Free tuition in New Jersey’s community colleges would cost an estimated US$200 million, but Governor Murphy is yet to disclose any specific details of the plan.

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