Two Cunningham-Sponsored Education Bills Clear Committee

Two, separate, education-related pieces of legislation co-sponsored by Hudson County State Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-Dist. 31, Jersey City, Bayonne) cleared the  Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday.

The first bill is aimed at helping students to graduate on time.  Details of the bill are explained in the following press release:

Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Higher Education Chair Sandra B. Cunningham and Senator Nellie Pou, which would require certain students to develop and file a degree plan, cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“Currently, the four year graduation rate for college students in the state is a troubling 42 percent.  It is crucial that we work diligently to do all that we can to ensure our students graduate on time,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “The faster students are able to graduate from college, the faster they can start their careers and pay off their debt. In order to guarantee this for our students, this legislation will put a safeguard in place to keep them on track.”

The bill, S-791, would require undergraduate students at colleges and universities to meet with an appropriate academic official and outline the requirements of their degree program along with a plan to meet those requirements.

“Attending college is a serious financial commitment,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Pursuing a four year degree often leaves most young adults paying off student loans into their 30s and 40s. Having students graduate on time rather than in five or six years will help them pay significantly less for their education and alleviate some of the burden of decades-long debt.”

At four year schools, students would be required to meet with their advisor sometime between when they start school and when they complete 45 credit hours. At county colleges and proprietary schools, students would be required to set their degree plan before the completion of 30 credits.

The bill would require schools to develop graduation progress benchmarks for each major, which would specify credit and course criteria that indicate satisfactory progress towards a degree. If a student fell behind on a benchmark, they would be required to meet with an academic advisor prior to their next course registration.

The bill was released from the committee by a vote of 5-0.

The second bill co-sponsored by Senator Cunningham also cleared the Senate’s Higher Education Committee during a vote on Wednesday.  It would require training for college board members.  Details are explained in the following press release:

Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, and Senate Higher Education Chair Sandra Cunningham, which would require training for members of college governing boards, cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“Board members are not only entrusted with steering an institution towards a sustainable future, but they also have vast influence in how things are run at our state colleges,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “From finances to rule enforcement to selection of personnel, board members provide oversight, manage funds and ensure that operations are running effectively. By requiring every board member to receive the appropriate training, we are actively ensuring that our higher education institutions are well equipped and prepared to make sound fiscal decisions that are in the best interest of their students and our state.”

The bill, S-970, would require members of governing boards at public institutions of higher education to complete a training program developed or approved by the Secretary of Higher Education within the first six months of their appointment.

“These are the boards that set the institutions’ agendas, approve student fee increases and greenlight multimillion dollar research projects and capital improvements,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson).  “It makes sense that we should ensure that the board members fully understand all aspects of their undertakings and make sound, ethical choices.”

The training would include governance responsibilities, ethical standards, due diligence, the requirements of the “Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act,” and the open public records law. It would also include issues associated with law and privacy, and board member responsibilities among other things.

The bill cleared committee today by a vote of 5-0.