The New Jersey College Affordability Commission is not expected to report its recommendations to Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature until September of 2016, but the panel took testimony Wednesday at the Statehouse and received a variety of ideas to consider in an effort to lower the cost of a college education in New Jersey.

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One expert said something has to be done because too many Garden State residents are getting squeezed out of an education.

"We tolerate high tuition at our institutions because we do have an absolutely wonderful financial aid program in New Jersey," said Steve Rose, chairman of the New Jersey Presidents' Council. "Just how high can we tolerate the tuitions and how much aid do we give?"

Rethinking the state's tuition aid eligibility standards is worth considering, according to Rose, because there are many New Jerseyans who are discovering the hard way that they earn too much money to qualify for assistance, but not nearly enough to pay for a college education on their own.

"There is a huge group of students and I would argue a growing group of students that is getting caught in the middle of this," Rose said.

Making sure students are college ready is key, Rose said. In addition, placing them in classes they are prepared for is important too because if they can pass a course they won't be forced to retake it.

"If we can save time for a student to get through and get their degree it's going to save them money along the way. It's going to be more affordable. If they're taking loans maybe there'd be one or two less semesters that they'd have to take a loan," Rose said.

Among the other ideas under consideration include:

  • Cheaper textbooks;
  • More remedial education for students while they're still in high school;
  • Allowing more students to earn college credits for free while in high school.

"If students don't succeed, if they're leaving before they complete an associate degree or bachelor's degree that debt that they have is going to be monumental for them because employers will see them not as a person that has any college credit at all. Employers see them as having a high school diploma and that's it," said Federick Keating, chairman of the study commission.

The panel was expected to begin scheduling public hearings across the state where members will receive testimony from college educators, student groups and others.