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For NJ STARS Students Free Tuition Comes With Strict Requirements

The New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS) grants the top 15 percent of high school juniors with free tuition to their local community college, but there’s a catch.

Kerry Barbuto a student advisor at Camden County College, counsels NJ STARS I students emphasizes, “As good as it is, is as bad as it is.”

NJ STARS I is a program created by the State of  NJ that provides the top 15% of their class with free tuition at their home county college.

Asked about the specific criteria in the program, Barbuto explained, “The students are required to enroll in 12 credits per semester, obtain a 3.0 GPA, and have their degree in five semesters.”

Barbuto believes the program benefits students financially, but not mentally.

“Students get overwhelmed with maintaining the GPA and the stress student put on themselves can be crucial,” she said.

Kayla Johnston, 19, a full-time CCC NJ STARS I student from Erial, said she was notified about NJ STARS her junior year, but says, “It was already assumed I was going to receive the scholarship because I was in the top of my class since freshman year.”

Johnston was confident she could meet the requirements. “It’s not challenging for me, it pushes me, but I was pretty good at getting A’s already,” she said.

Johnston had some negative feedback about the program.

“ I guess, it’s good, yes it covers tuition which is good but not enough, they took out a fee and since then I’ve had to take out loans. It’s supposed to save students money, but has put me in debt,” she said.

NJ STARS I student, Kayla Johnston completes her 8 a.m. class and waits for her next class at 11 a.m.


A former CCC and NJ STARS I student, Crystal Pagan-Perez, 22, from Pennsauken, transferred to Rutgers University and is now an NJ STARS II student.

Pagan-Perez qualified for NJ STARS II by completing her associate degree and maintaining a 3.25 GPA while maintaining her status as a full-time student.

NJ STARS II is awarded to the students that earned an associate’s degree at their county school. Students must transfer to a four-year NJ school to receive funds.

Pagan-Perez said the program is a fantastic way to get quality education on a budget. She said, “Without NJ STARS I wouldn’t have seen the value in community college and would’ve been in more debt.” 

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