After two terms of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) being in power, the people of New Jersey elected a Democrat, Phil Murphy. Murphy has strikingly different opinions than Christie on a lot of issues. First of all, Murphy supports stricter gun control laws, specifically stating that he plans to sign all of the gun control measures Christie vetoed, such as keeping weapons out of the hands of abusers. Another difference is that Christie vehemently opposed the legalization of marijuana, believing it to be a gateway to harder drugs, while Murphy campaigned on the promise of legalizing it. While these are only two examples, it is clear that Governor Murphy is set to try to make a lot of changes to how NJ is currently being run, some of which will affect college students. Here are four areas New Jersey college students will feel the most impact in if reform is accomplished by Phil Murphy.
1. Protecting Immigrant Rights
Protecting undocumented immigrants is a key part of Phil Murphy's platform. Many Dreamers are unable to pursue higher education because they are not allowed any financial aid. And, a lot of the Dreamers who do pursue some form of higher education struggle to pay for it. Murphy is planning on extending in-state financial aid to the Dreamers, as well as providing drivers licenses' and state IDs to all undocumented immigrants. This will make a big difference is undocumented college students' ability to pay for and get to school.
2. Healthcare Reform
Murphy's stance on healthcare reform for the state of New Jersey will be especially helpful for college-aged women. Murphy plans to restore state funding to Planned Parenthood, thereby getting rid of out-of-pocket costs of FDA approved contraception. This is very helpful for college students, since almost 40% of female college students use oral contraception. No one should have to choose between paying for birth control and paying for books. Murphy is also hoping to rein in sky rocketing insurance premiums. The average working New Jersey college student probably does not make a wage that would provide quality healthcare. As of right now, students who need to take out their own insurance plan must sacrifice quality for cost.
3. Tearing Down Barriers to Vote
In the 2016 presidential election, college voter turnout was at 48.3%, which, believe it or not, is 3 percentage points higher than the previous presidential election. Phil Murphy recognizes that this is unacceptable. His plans to making voting easier will definitely help college students. Murphy is looking to follow in the footsteps of 38 other states and create online voter registration, as well as allowing same day voter registration. Convenience is everything to a college student. Additionally, Murphy's plan to allow early voting is sure to increase voter turn out among college students, especially among those who may not be able to get home for election day.
4. Lowering the Cost of College and Helping Repay Student Loans
Most importantly, however, Murphy is looking to slash the cost of in-state colleges, including community colleges. As of 2015, New Jersey had one of the highest rates of in-state tuition in the country and continues to have some of the most poorly funded state schools in the country. To correct this problem, Murphy is looking to increase state aid to higher education institutions. As if that problem is not enough, not only does New Jersey have higher interest rates than most federal loan programs, it also has some of the most stringent rules regarding student loans in the country. In fact, loans repayments cannot be adjusted based on a person's income and borrowers who are not in a financial position to repay their loans are given virtually no breaks. In order to change this, Murphy says that he will work to create incentives for private sector employers to provide student loan relief as an employee benefit, and help people who are stuck with high interest rate student loans by offering state-based refinancing at lower rates.
Whether Phil Murphy realizes it or not, he will certainly be a great governor for college students. If his plans pan out, they will make a big difference in students lives. Going from Christie to Murphy will be, without a doubt, a big change. However, change is good and it will be interesting to see what Murphy will be able to accomplish over his term.
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