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A package of bills was signed into law recently to encourage students to attend college full-time while easing the burden of student-loan debt.

“The cost of higher education is oppressive to students and young graduates saddled with loan debts that inhibit their ability to start off on a life of their own with secure financial footing,” said one of the bills’ sponsors, Sen. Shirley K. Turner, D- Hunterdon, Mercer.

The first law of the two-bill package will require public institutions to set a limit of 120 credits required to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and 60 for an associate’s, with some exceptions. The second law establishes a public-relations campaign to encourage students to take 30 credits per year in order to graduate within two or four years, depending on the degree.

“Combined, these measures both inform students and their families of what it takes to graduate in four years, and asks institutions to be mindful of ensuring it is possible for students to earn a degree in four years, which will ultimately save on tuition costs, resulting in less debt and less stress,” said bill co-sponsor Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Mila Jasey, D-Essex, Morris.

The new laws were a recommendation from Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s College Affordability Study Commission’s report released in September 2016.

“Higher education opens so many doors for young people,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland. “This law had unanimous support in the Senate because it encourages students to take the course load each semester that will bring students to a timely graduation.”

Booker introduces bill to simplify federal student aid: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has joined his colleagues in Congress to reintroduce a bill to streamline the financial-aid application process for graduate and undergraduate students. Booker said less than half of high school students complete the form, and the rate is lower for those who are from under-served backgrounds. The bill would simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, make it available on mobile devices and make DREAMers eligible for federal financial aid.

Schools now required to teach consequences of ‘sexting’: Students in New Jersey will soon learn about the consequences of “sexting,” or using a text message or other direct messaging application to send nude or suggestive photos.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, was signed into law earlier this month. It requires school districts to teach the social, emotional and legal consequences of sexting once during the middle school grades in an appropriate place in the curriculum as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.

The law also requires the commissioner of education to provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement.

— Claire Lowe

Contact: 609-272-7251

Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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