By: Joshua Gras, Writer / Follow South Jersey Higher Education Intern
VINELAND, N.J. — The Community College Opportunity Grant was created to provide people with the means to better themselves in the form of higher education. Potential students often find it hard to afford schooling with tuition rates at an all-time high, including a 25% increase from just 10 years ago.
The fear of looming debt discourages many, but Griselda Bautista found her way thanks to New Jersey’s new Community College Opportunity Grant, which guarantees free tuition for students in families with gross annual incomes of $65,000 or fewer.
Bautista always wanted more out of life, but raising a four-year-old son along with taking care of her mother takes up the overwhelming majority of her attention. However, the CCOG allowed her to pursue an education, and she graduated from Rowan College of South Jersey this year with a degree in Social Services. Bautista talked about the relief of having the grant cover her tuition.
“I have to think about feeding my child. Now, I don’t have to worry about how much I’m going to pay for my tuition,” Bautista said.
Iris Torres, the student development advisor for the Las Vias program, said that Bautista is a “determined and conscientious” student who surprised her with how dedicated and focused she was despite the fact that her home life demands so much of her time and attention..
Bautista leaves RCSJ’s Cumberland County campus with nothing but good memories, even though the COVID-19 pandemic impacted many of them. Fear is a known quantity in her life, but Bautista wants people to know that fear does not control her because she has adapted a positive outlook which she credits for taking her this far.
The recent graduate said that potential students who may worry that it’s too late for them to go back to school should simply go for it.
“It’s never too late,” Bautista said. ”College gives you the opportunity to have more doors open in your life.”
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.