By Matt Friedman and Kelly Heyboer/The Star-Ledger

TRENTON — What if New Jersey college students didn’t have to pay tuition? What if they just went to public colleges for free in exchange for agreeing to give the state a percentage of their future salaries for a few decades after graduation?

Those are some of the questions leading Democrats in Trenton plan to explore this fall in legislation that could radically rethink how New Jersey runs its colleges.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said today he and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland), head of the Higher Education Committee, will introduce legislation to establish a seven-member commission to study the idea, called “Pay Forward, Pay Back.”

He said it would be up to the commission to decide whether to set up a pilot program.

Under the plan, New Jersey public colleges could waive tuition and fees for students who pledge to give the state a portion of their salaries after graduation.

In theory, the idea would reduce the amount of loans students take out to go to college.


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