By Elisabeth Kim, Ph.D., Bernie Lombardi, Ph.D., and Robyn Brady Ince, Ed.M.

The Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC) and the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University-Newark are working in partnership with the New Jersey State Policy Lab to explore the implementation and impact of Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) and Garden State Guarantee (GSG) funds in Newark, New Jersey. This blog addresses the background for the project and the research design.

As part of this research, we will explore Newark residents’ awareness of these financial aid programs as well as opportunities for improving access. The CCOG and GSG aim to make college more accessible and affordable to low-income New Jersey residents, limiting out-of-pocket costs and, thus, future debt. Inaugurated in Spring 2019, the CCOG funds two years of community college in all 18 county colleges. The Garden State Guarantee will roll out in Fall 2022 to fund students’ third and fourth years of undergraduate study at a four-year institution. We will explore how information about the CCOG is shared with Newark students and families and what their understanding is about the timeline, necessary steps, and deadlines for submission of needed documents. We also will look at similar communications dynamics about how information about GSG is starting to be shared and understood. In using Newark as a case study, we can extrapolate our findings to other urban areas as well as smaller townships with similar populations of students throughout the state of New Jersey.

Key questions include:

  • What do Newark residents know about GSG and CCOG?
  • How does knowledge of these opportunities influence college selection?
  • How and in what ways are Office of the Secretary of Education (OSHE), colleges/universities offices (admissions, financial aid, marketing, etc.) and high schools collaborating to market and inform students and families about GSG and CCOG?
  • What opportunities exist to better inform and thereby increase the knowledge of CCOG and GSG for high school guidance counselors, students/families of prospective students, etc.?
  • How does this approach address issues of equity around race, gender, citizenship status, and high school attended?

In the coming months, we will conduct bilingual listening sessions and focus groups with Newark residents (including undocumented students/families), high school guidance counselors, community organizations and college financial aid officers. To help with this effort, we will hire an undergraduate translation intern through the Lives in Translation program at Rutgers-Newark. We will also analyze state data on CCOG to get a sense of the funds’ demographic and geographic distribution since its inception in 2019.

The CCOG and GSG have great potential to increase access to higher education in cities like Newark and throughout the state of New Jersey. Results of this research will lead to recommendations to improve awareness and impact at state and local levels. In addition, our findings will inform the implementation of the GSG in its first year.