Rutgers-Camden to offer free tuition for low-income students

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Thanks to a new program, Rutgers University is offering free tuition to low-income students starting next year. (WPVI)

Imagine what it would be like to earn a Rutgers University degree at no cost. Thanks to a new program, it will be possible next year.

The program, called Bridging the Gap, is being offered to low-income students at Rutgers - Camden.

"We are looking to make education affordable and to service the students that we do, which are a lot of low-income, first-generation students," said Craig Westman, Rutgers Enrollment Management. "It's putting a Rutgers degree within their reach."

Here's how it works: after applying for state and federal financial-aid grants, students with a family income of $60,000 a year or less will have the rest of their tuition and fees paid by Rutgers.

Those with family income between $60 and 100,000 are eligible to have half their tuition and fees paid, equating to about $14,000 a year.

Prospective students and parents touring campus on Friday told Action News, the idea sounds great.

"I think it's very exciting especially for like a single parent trying to save for college. It's difficult," said Alison Nixon of Woodstown, New Jersey. "I'm definitely gonna look into that."

"It's gonna bring Rutgers Camden a little bit higher on my list for colleges," said Tyler Nixon of Woodstown, New Jersey. "Was probably fourth, it's probably like second now - second or first."

The pilot program will be available to high school graduates enrolling in 2016. Students must be a New Jersey resident, a U.S. citizen and attend classes at Rutgers Camden - the only campus where the program is available.

"I think that would be a good incentive for kids who didn't think they could go to school," said parent Tyra Mobley.

Almost two-thirds of the students work between 20 and 40 hours a week. With tuition costs covered, the goal is to give them more time to focus on school and avoid crippling student loan debt.

Rutgers student Lexi Ospina will owe $70,000 in loans when she graduates.

"They're all saddled in debt after school. It's expensive. I mean $26,000 for in-state tuition, that's a lot of money so it's definitely a great program," said Ospina of Oakland, New Jersey.

If enrollment increases next year because of the unique program, Rutgers said they're prepared to handle it.
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