Rutgers Newark Creates Free Tuition Program

NJ Spotlight News | December 28, 2015 | Education, Politics
Newark has one of the lowest rates of residents that go to college at 17 percent.

By Michael Hill

Rutgers University Newark looks at New Jersey’s most populated city the way scientists look to the laboratory to test a theory, solve a conundrum or create a cure. Newark – with all its socio-economic issues – has one of the lowest rates in the state of residents who’ve been to college at 17 percent, however it plans to grow it to 25 percent in ten years.

“Our fate is wrapped up, it’s intertwined, with that of Newark inexplicably,” Peter Englot, Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark, said.

A solution for the ever-expanding Rutgers-Newark for undergraduates, after scholarships have been awarded:

  • Free tuition for Newark residents who’ve been admitted from households with an income of $60,000 or less.
  • Free tuition for New Jersey county college transfers with an Associate’s Degree with an income of $60,000 or less.
  • Free room and board to students admitted to the Honors Living-Learning Community.

“Rutgers University Newark is embracing Newark and embracing New Jersey. We view ourselves as an anchor institution and this is a piece of what we think it means,” Englot said.

The free tuition plan for Rutgers Newark’s Talent and Opportunity Pathways program – or RUN to the TOP – starts next fall. One critic says it shouldn’t start at all.

“That’s a state institution. Why in the world are we segregating one municipality and giving them free tuition? What’s wrong with the other 560 some odd?” Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll said.

Carroll, a Rutgers Newark alumnus says plenty of New Jersey cities deal with socio-economic challenges and Newark is not unique.

“When you talk about free, you’re saying the taxpayers are going to pay this. That’s a bad precedent to set. The simple fact of the matter is if you are an adult, and every college student is, nothing should be free. You should expect to pay for everything you want. I don’t have any objections to giving people wanting to go to college and take substantive courses some assistance, provided they agree to give something back,” he said.

“We think this is exactly the kind of thing a state institution ought to be doing because it’s about the people of this city and this state,” Englot said.

Rutgers Newark says while this city has a lot of challenges, it also has a lot of potential and that’s what it’s trying to tap in to.

“We want to see more people from Newark, from New Jersey, getting their degrees here and then staying here in Newark and in New Jersey to build capacity in New Jersey,” Englot said. “This is a place that has huge potential.”

Rutgers Newark is targeting first-generation students, and it’s partnering with 60 public, private and nonprofit groups to expand student pathways to college and to identify talent.

The Honors Living-Learning Community already has 30 students in its first year with plans to quadruple enrollment. To gain admission takes more than a paper application.

“The Honors Living-Learning Community has, I think it’s fair to see, an unusual application process. We look beyond the application forms and we actually have the students for the HLLC who are applying come to campus and engage in activities together where we can observe how it is that they work with each other and problem solve. This is really an excellent way to get an idea of how people will function in the world,” Englot said.

Rutgers Newark has 12,000 enrolled students with roughly 600 who would qualify for the RUN to TOP free tuition and/or free housing if it had started this year.