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June 30, 2023
June 30, 2023, Jersey City, NJ – Nursing is one of the most in-demand careers in the United States, but obtaining a college degree in this field can be cost-prohibitive for many students.
To close equity gaps in higher education and to support economic growth, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy partnered with the NJ CEO Council and Social Finance to launch the New Jersey Pay It Forward Program in 2022. The first-of-its-kind in the United States, the $12.5 million program prepares students for careers in growth-fueled industries such as health care, green energy, and Information Technology (IT). New Jersey Pay It Forward is designed to help participants enroll in and graduate from high-quality academic and training programs. The Pay It Forward Program provides zero-interest, no-fee loans, non-repayable living stipends, access to emergency aid funds, and supportive services like mental health counseling for students. After completing one of the eligible academic or training programs, participants who earn above a minimum salary, such as $49,290 for a family of three, repay their loans, and those funds are then recycled to finance future students.
Hudson County Community College is the first institution of higher education in New Jersey selected to participate in the health care segment of the Pay It Forward Program. The HCCC Associate of Science (A.S.) in Nursing Degree Program was chosen for its proven, high-quality training, and track record of strong employment outcomes, employer relationships, and experience serving diverse learners. The Pay It Forward Program closely aligns with HCCC’s overarching principles of dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, and student success.
Nineteen HCCC Nursing Program students were among 100-plus students in the state selected as initial program participants. On Thursday, June 15, the 19 HCCC students graduated from the College’s Nursing Program and were celebrated with a toast and a pinning ceremony at the HCCC Culinary Conference Center. Those who helped commemorate the occasion included David J. Socolow, Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA); Tara Colton, Executive Vice President for Economic Security at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA); Emily Apple, Director of Economic Security, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA); Dr. Christopher Reber, HCCC President; Dr. Darryl Jones, HCCC Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dr. Heather DeVries, HCCC Dean of Academic Affairs and Assessment; Dr. Catherine Sirangelo, HCCC Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences; Dr. Lori Byrd, Interim Director, HCCC Nursing Program; and representatives from the NJ CEO Council and Social Finance, the nonprofit designing and managing the program.
“The New Jersey Pay It Forward stipend and emergency funds helped me focus on my classes and worry less,” said Eunice Rivera, a graduate of the program who accepted an offer to become an intensive care unit nurse at a nearby hospital. “The no-interest loan helps me stay in the here and now, instead of worrying too much about compounding interest that I would have to pay in the future.”
“I commend the students graduating today on their hard work and dedication in making it to this point,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “I look forward to seeing the first group of graduates from our Pay It Forward Program go on to succeed in their careers and help enable the success of future cohorts of eager students. I know great things are ahead for each and every one of these nursing students, who will significantly assist communities throughout our state by filling critical roles among New Jersey’s health care workforce.”
“We are incredibly proud of our first Pay It Forward Program Nursing graduates,” said Dr. Reber. “A college degree is the great equalizer on the path to a sustainable career and enjoyable life. It provides the means to secure one’s family, and to help our community thrive. We are thankful to the State of New Jersey, Social Finance, and the NJ CEO Council for providing the resources to make students’ dreams realities, and for recognizing our Nursing Program as a vital component in helping students attain success.”
“It is an honor to celebrate the very first group of students to complete their studies with support from New Jersey’s Pay It Forward Program,” said David J. Socolow. “Today’s pinning ceremony welcomes a new group of highly qualified, skilled, and compassionate New Jerseyans into the nursing profession, where they will deliver vital care to help their patients heal. These new nurses reached today’s milestone thanks most of all to their own hard work, but also with support from Pay It Forward zero-interest loans and additional grants that reduced their student debt burdens. I applaud each and every one of them.”
“Congratulations to the first graduates from New Jersey Pay It Forward. With hard work and dedication, along with financing and supportive services from the program, they will soon enter the field of nursing. Best of all, once they secure good jobs, they will enable more students to become nurses,” said Tracy Palandjian, CEO & Co-Founder of Social Finance.
“As a healthcare anchor institution and co-designer of the program, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with Hudson County Community College to develop career ladders for those wishing to pursue a degree in nursing,” said Lourdes Valdes, Corporate Director, Workforce Development and Grants, Human Resources Corporate Services, RWJBarnabas Health. “We’re proud to celebrate with the first graduating class, and look forward to continuing to grow our state’s workforce along with our terrific partners.”
In addition to the Nursing Program at HCCC, New Jersey’s Pay It Forward Program serves HVAC and Welding students at Camden County College and Cybersecurity students at New Jersey Institute of Technology. The program aims to add more training programs and to serve more students in the coming years. Governor Phil Murphy has proposed an additional $2.5 million for New Jersey Pay It Forward in his Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal.