New Jersey has the best public school system in the country. As the proud product of a public school education and a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I will work to protect funding for our schools and students. Doors open with a great education, employers are attracted to exceptional schools and a talented workforce, and every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential.
I have fought hard to support our children and provide our schools with the resources they need. With the federal funding New Jersey schools received through the American Rescue Plan and CARES Act, we were able to safely reopen our schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, address learning loss, and hire staff to expand mental health services for students. Student mental health is a particularly critical issue, and I brought tax dollars home for the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris’s suicide prevention program that will bring awareness, care, and much-needed resources to schools in every county of NJ-11.
With college on the horizon for my own children and the application process ahead, I know the questions and concerns families face when it comes to the cost of college. There is little question that we need to make higher education more affordable so our students enter the workforce in the strongest position possible.
I helped pass a law to hold accountable the predatory lenders and for-profit colleges that take advantage of students and veterans. I am leading bipartisan legislation to stop colleges from withholding transcripts from students who have defaulted on their student loans. A college transcript is often necessary to find a good-paying job, apply for graduate school, or transfer school credits, leaving many of these students with few options to pay off their debt and start their careers after school. Students should also be able to borrow from the federal government at the same rate as big banks and we should allow them to refinance their debt when interest rates go down similar to mortgages or car loans.
Many of my fellow veterans enlisted or joined ROTC programs as a pathway to an affordable college education. I support the creation of a national service college debt relief program to help provide a long-term fix to the student debt crisis.
Too many face significant barriers to finishing their degree and gaining a good, well-paying job after graduation. This is why I’ve introduced the bipartisan Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act to help students succeed in our community, technical, and four-year colleges and universities. The FINISH Act helps fund initiatives that have a track record of success in helping students graduate with a degree or credential.
Finally, we must do more to support two-year and vocational programs that lead directly to a job upon graduation. This type of training can offer a bright future and is often a more efficient and effective model for those pursuing technical careers, particularly when paired with ongoing certificate programs. With critical investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, I helped pass the CHIPS and Science Act, to train the future workforce needed to compete in the global economy. Institutions like the County College of Morris will lead the way to help to create a globally competitive workforce and reduce our national labor shortage.