In Brief

Rutgers to provide free tuition to undergrads from low-income families

By: - February 21, 2022 5:44 pm

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway(Courtesy of Rutgers University)

Thousands of Rutgers University students will benefit from a new financial aid program slashing out-of-pocket costs of tuition and fees for families with incomes below $100,000. 

The program, dubbed Scarlet Guarantee, will be available to first- and second-year students on the school’s New Brunswick campus beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. Rutgers officials expect 7,600 students — nearly 20% of enrolled undergraduates — to qualify for the program. 

The initiative is launching the same semester as Garden State Guarantee, a college affordability program signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy aimed at helping third- and fourth-year students from low- and middle-income households.

If students from families with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less take advantage of both programs, full tuition and mandatory fees would be covered for four years.

For families with incomes between $65,001 and $80,000, the cost would be a maximum of $3,000 annually. The maximum cost would rise to $5,000 annually for families making between $80,001 and $100,000.

Students would still be responsible for meal plans, housing, textbooks, transportation, and other costs.

Scarlet Guarantee is expected to cost $24 million for the first year, with the state paying $10 million. It will be what’s known as a “last dollar” program, meaning it will kick in on top of other scholarships and grants.

“The Scarlet Guarantee program will help qualified students from across New Jersey realize their hopes, dreams, and ambitions and will help Rutgers become an even richer and more diverse university,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said in a statement. 

The program is part of a nationwide movement to lower the skyrocketing cost of higher education. The College Board, which tracks trends in college pricing and student aid, reports the national average tuition at a public college stood at $10,740 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of college jumped 169% from 1980 to 2019.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, in-state tuition at Rutgers costs $12,536, while non-New Jersey residents pay more than $29,000. Room and board cost students another $13,400, and fees tack on an average of $3,268.

Tuition for 2022-2023 has not been set. 

A 2022 study by Education Data Initiative found New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state for in-state college tuition, behind New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Students don’t have to fill out any extra paperwork to be considered for Scarlet Guarantee. Anyone who completes the FAFSA or New Jersey Alternative Financial Aid Application for Dreamers — undocumented students protected under DACA — are automatically considered.

Students must be full-time, enrolled in at least 12 credits per semester working toward their first bachelor’s degree, and meet academic progress standards. Students in their fifth year and graduate students are not eligible.

Rutgers Camden and Rutgers Newark already have similar programs providing free tuition to some families who earn less than $65,000, and reduced tuition fees for students from households that earn less than $100,000. Other schools across the Garden State, including Stockton University and New Jersey City University, have expanded their financial aid to help cut costs for low- and middle-income students. 

New Jersey is also home to the Community College Opportunity Grant, which offers free tuition to 18 community colleges for undergraduates from homes with incomes of $65,000 or less.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.