New Jersey Launches “Pay It Forward” Program Offering Zero Interest College Loans

Governor Phil Murphy, the New Jersey CEO Council, and Social Finance on Wednesday launched the New Jersey Pay It Forward Program – a new and innovative workforce development program. Participants in the program will receive zero-interest, no-fee loans at no upfront cost, as well as non-repayable living stipends and wraparound supports, to allow them to affordably prepare for good-paying, career-track jobs in the health care, information technology (IT), and clean energy sectors.

The loans will enable participants to enroll in credential, certificate, and degree programs at one of three inaugural training providers: Registered Nursing at Hudson County Community College, Cybersecurity at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and Welding at Camden County College. Loan terms are designed to be more borrower-friendly than even federal student loans.

All loan payments will be recycled back into the fund to ‘pay it forward’ for subsequent students’ training costs. The program aims to help participants find jobs while also helping employers fill in-demand positions in high-growth sectors to promote economic growth in New Jersey.

Participants who find jobs earning above a specific income threshold will repay the cost of their tuition over time. Any loan balance remaining after five years will be forgiven for borrowers in good standing. To help them succeed throughout the program, participants will also receive living stipends and free wraparound supports, including access to an emergency aid fund and mental health counseling services. Under the program, students will not have to repay the living stipends or wraparound supports. The loans are intended to be a last-dollar option, allowing students to maximize the free resources available to them to minimize the amount they need to repay.

Members of the New Jersey CEO Council, a coalition of CEOs from some of the state’s largest and most widely recognized companies, provided corporate contributions of approximately $5 million to the Pay It Forward Program. The State added to this commitment with appropriations of $5 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2023. The CEO Council is made up of the CEOs of BD, Campbell Soup Company, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Prudential Financial, PSEG, RWJBarnabas Health, and Verizon.

After a thorough due diligence process, the New Jersey Pay It Forward Program selected a set of inaugural training providers with high-quality, industry-recognized training programs and a track record of strong employment outcomes, employer relationships, and experience serving learners from diverse backgrounds.

New Jerseyans have the option to enroll in Hudson County Community College’s Nursing Program, a two-year, full-time associate degree program in Jersey City designed to prepare learners for careers as registered nurses. Participants complete clinical placements to gain on-the-job nursing experience and prepare for roles as nurses in hospitals and other health care settings. The program offers evening, weekend, and daytime class schedules to accommodate working learners and learners with families.

Learners can also enroll in New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp, a 10-month, part-time, online training program designed to prepare learners for cybersecurity careers. This course, which includes topics such as computer networking, cloud security, network security, and Python, takes place on nights and weekends to better serve the needs of working learners and learners with families.

Finally, New Jerseyans have the option to enroll in Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) or Welding courses at Camden County College. Classes take place at Camden County Technical School’s Sicklerville Campus or Pennsauken Campus. Both programs, which meet in-person on weekday evenings, are nine-month, part-time courses with strong completion and job placement outcomes.

The New Jersey Pay It Forward Program plans to partner with additional training providers in the coming months.

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