Hudson County Community College Students are First to Complete Nursing Degrees in New Jersey’s Pay It Forward Program

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 healthcare 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.”

“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, of 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.”

“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.

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 the 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.

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Darryl Jones, HCCC Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dr. Christopher Reber, HCCC President; David J. Socolow, Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA); and Tara Colton, Executive Vice President for Economic Security at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).

About Hudson County Community College

Hudson County Community College serves more than 20,000 credit and non-credit students annually. The College offers nearly 90 degree and certificate programs, including award-winning English as a Second Language; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management; Nursing and Health Professions; and Humanities and Social Sciences. The HCCC Culinary/Hospitality Management program was ranked number six in the U.S. by Best Choice Schools.

HCCC has partnerships with major four-year colleges and universities in the greater New Jersey-New York area and beyond, accommodating seamless transfer of credits for further undergraduate and graduate education.

The College’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been recognized with the 2021 Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Northeast Region Equity Award; the “INSIGHT Into Diversity” 2021 and 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, this year honoring HCCC as one of seven community colleges nationally to be named “Top Colleges for Diversity;” and the “INSIGHT Into Diversity” 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award. HCCC was a finalist last year for the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) “Advancing Diversity Award of Excellence.” For the second consecutive year, HCCC was selected as one of 20 community colleges in the United States to be named among the “2023 Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges” by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) in collaboration with “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.” The College was one of 22 community colleges in the nation, and the only college in New Jersey, to be recognized by ModernThink LLC and the “Chronicle of Higher Education” as a 2022 “Great College to Work For®.” HCCC is one of two colleges in the United States to be named a Top Ten Finalist in all three program categories for the nationally recognized 2023 Bellwether Awards, and received the 2023 Bellwether Award for the College’s cutting-edge “Hudson Scholars” program. The College’s exemplary work in advancing student success has been recognized with 2023 “Leader College” designation by Achieving the Dream, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing community colleges as catalysts for equity and mobility in their communities. HCCC was also presented with the Campus Prevention Network Seal of Prevention by Vector Solutions for demonstrating leadership in digital prevention programming focused on student safety, well-being, and inclusion.

About the New Jersey Pay It Forward Program

The New Jersey Pay It Forward Program is a joint initiative of Governor Phil Murphy, the State of New Jersey, the NJ CEO Council, and Social Finance. The Pay It Forward program, which is the first of

its kind in the nation, aims to prepare New Jersey residents for in-demand jobs in industries like health care, IT, and clean energy. Learn more at Social Finance is the nonprofit designing and managing the program.