You can find answers to most questions asked about the NJ STARS program on this webpage. Click on the question and you will be brought to the answer. You can also view videos that are currently being added to each question which may provide more detail. If your question isn’t listed here, please email Catherine Krostek.
What is the NJ STARS program? (click here to view video)
The New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship, NJ STARS, is a merit-based scholarship available exclusively to New Jersey residents identified in the top 15 percent of their high school class at the end of either their junior or senior year, and attend their home county community college.
For eligibility requirements, please check the HESAA website for the NJ STARS Fact Sheet for the year you graduated high school.
Why should I take advantage of the NJ STARS program? (click here to view video)
- Students can attend college for the cost of fees and books, graduate with their Associate’s Degree with little or no debt, and still graduate with their Bachelor’s Degree at four-year colleges.
- Almost 80% of students who started as NJ STARS students at Bergen Community College graduate with their Associate’s degree and transfer to four-year colleges.
- Students who first enroll at community colleges, then transfer to four-year colleges, do as well in attaining bachelor’s degrees as students who started as freshmen at four-year schools
- New Jersey’s smartest, best, and brightest students attend community colleges. 95% of them stay in New Jersey upon graduation and contribute to the state’s economy.
- The Judith K. Winn School of Honors at Bergen Community College is an excellent honors program offering advanced course work to the College’s highest achieving, most motivated students. Honors courses are noted on students’ college transcripts, and only 18 credits in honors courses are needed to graduate with honors. In addition, students who meet the requirements are invited to join several honor societies including Alpha Mu Gamma, the largest national collegiate foreign language honor society in two and four-year colleges; Phi Theta Kappa, the official honor society for two-year colleges (see more below); Psi Beta, a national honor society in Psychology; and Signa Chi Eta, the official community college honor society of the National Communication Association (NCA).
- Phi Theta Kappa, or PTK, is the largest, oldest, and most prestigious international honor society in 1,300 community colleges and 11 nations. Alpha Epsilon Phi, Bergen Community College’s chapter is always one of the top chapters of Phi Theta Kappa. In 2019, Alpha Epsilon Phi was the number one chapter in the world. In addition to other benefits, students inducted into PTK are eligible for up to $90 million in scholarship opportunities including access to more than $37 million in exclusive PTK transfer scholarships. Bergen Community College has had several students on PTK’s board, most recently International President Amanda Karpinski, and International Vice President Jenna Santacroce, both NJ STARS graduates.
- Bergen Community College is one of the best community colleges in the world!
How do I qualify for the NJ STARS program? (click here to view video)
To be eligible for NJ STARS, the following eligibility components must be met. The initial eligibility criteria for NJ STARS is that high school students must be identified in the top 15 percent at the end of either their junior or senior year. Further academic criteria require that students also present a final, official high school transcript and class rank/class size as proof of high school graduation and complete a rigorous high school course of study.
In addition to the academic eligibility requirements, students must complete the financial aid component. For this, students must complete both the federal (FAFSA) and state-based (HESAA NJFAMS) financial aid reviews each year by the deadlines. Bergen Community College must be listed as one of the college choices on the FAFSA and on the HESAA NJFAMS student portal.
Students must be full-time (12 or more credits) unless it is their final semester and less than 12 credits are needed to graduate. Students must also maintain continuous enrollment unless they request and receive an approved leave of absence.
What does the NJ STARS scholarship cover? (click here to view video)
NJ STARS covers the cost of tuition only (after any State and/or federal grants and scholarships) at your home county community college for 12 to 18 college-level credits per semester and up to five semesters or until enough credits are earned for an Associate’s Degree. Students are responsible to pay for associated course fees, books, and supplies.
Students who receive enough federal and/or State financial aid to pay for their tuition will be considered unfunded NJ STARS students meaning that although NJ STARS scholarships will not pay for their tuition, they will still be eligible for NJ STARS II scholarships as long as they graduate with a 3.25 GPA or greater within five semesters.
Scholarships must specifically state they can be used to pay for books and fees only or for educational purposes so they will not be used to pay for tuition.
What should I expect after learning about the NJ STARS program? (click here to view video)
Your high school should notify you of your eligibility at the end of your junior year if you were in the top 15% of your class.
Prospective NJ STARS students should receive a letter from HESAA sometime at the end of February or in early March during their senior year of high school. The 2022 letter will be posted here after it has gone out to students. Click here to view a copy of the 2021 letter. Students who did not activate their NJ STARS eligibility by the date in the letter will still be eligible to apply to the NJ STARS program at Bergen Community College until September. Students signing their NJ STARS Application/Contract after the start of the Fall semester will have to pay their tuition and wait for reimbursement from the State of New Jersey.
Last year, postcards were mailed out from Bergen Community College in mid-March to all qualifying students in Bergen County containing information about the NJ STARS program and QR Codes that can be scanned to RSVP to NJ STARS events, and to this webpage to complete the online application process.
*If you did not receive a letter from HESAA or a postcard from Bergen Community College, please see below.
What if I do not receive information from HESAA or Bergen Community College?
If you did not receive a letter from HESAA, you will not receive a postcard from Bergen Community College since you may not have ranked in the top 15% of your class at the end of your junior year. Please check with your high school guidance office since if you did not qualify at the end of your junior year, you can still qualify if you rank in the top 15% of your class at the end of your senior year.
Students whose names are not on the HESAA list of qualifying junior high school students but should have been, and students who qualify at the end of their senior year are potentially eligible for the NJ STARS Program. However, these students will need to provide proof of their class rank and class size either on an official, final signed and sealed transcript or on the Certification of High School Class Rank Form from their high school which must contain the school seal.
Qualified out-of-county students should receive a letter from HESAA but will not receive correspondence from Bergen Community College.
What should I do first?
To get started, download the Self-Identification Form for Prospective NJ STARS Students and save it to your computer. Then read and complete the form, save it again, and email it to Catherine Krostek, the Bergen Community College NJ STARS Representative. Once your self-identification form is received, if you have already applied to Bergen Community College, you will be identified as a prospective NJ STARS student in your college record. After verifying your NJ STARS program eligibility, you will be waived from taking placement tests.*
Registration for Fall 2022 opens on April 15th. Sometime in July, Ms. Krostek will temporarily protect the courses of students who have self-identified so they will not have to pay their tuition. Protection of courses for students will be extended as long as all steps are completed and their NJ STARS Application/Contract is signed and submitted before the first day of the semester. If you have not applied to the college yet, please email Mrs. Krostek after you apply so she can complete the above tasks.
Students submitting their Self-Identification Form to Catherine Krostek will also be waived from taking placement tests but only after proof of students’ NJ STARS eligibility is received by the college approximately mid-February of qualified students’ senior year of high school. Prospective NJ STARS students can also be waived from taking the Next Generation Accuplacer placement tests by other means as outlined on the Office of Testing Services website. Click here for further information.
How do I apply to the NJ STARS program at Bergen Community College as a new or transfer student?
New and transfer students should visit the How to Apply to the NJ STARS Program webpage, access the NJ STARS Application Process Checklist, complete all steps including registering full-time, and sign and submit the NJ STARS Application/Contract.
I am graduating from a high school with small class sizes. Am I still eligible for NJ STARS?
Potential NJ STARS eligibility for small graduating classes is shown below:
Class size of 1: not eligible
Class size of 2-6: #1 student is potentially NJ STARS eligible
Class size of 7 or greater: top 15 percent of students are potentially NJ STARS eligible.
Do I have to take the Next Generation Placement tests?
On June 21, 2021, the full New Jersey Council of County Colleges unanimously approved a resolution that changes the test used for final NJ STARS program eligibility, designating “a student’s high school academic ranking as the test of a student’s final eligibility for the NJ STARS program.”
Therefore, prospective NJ STARS students are considered college-ready if they are in the top 15% of their high school class at the end of their junior or senior year of high school. However, prospective NJ STARS students must be waived from taking placement tests by the college before they can register for classes.
Students submitting their Self-Identification Form to Catherine Krostek will be waived from taking placement tests but only after proof of students’ NJ STARS program eligibility is received by the college approximately mid-February of qualified students’ senior year of high school.
Prospective NJ STARS students can also be waived from taking the Next Generation Accuplacer placement tests by other means as outlined on the Office of Testing Services website. Click here for further information.
What happens if I took the Next Generation Placement tests or the SATS and it is suggested that I take remedial courses for English or Math?
Students could take a remedial course or courses at their expense (or paid out of non-NJ STARS funds) if they feel it is necessary to prepare for college-level courses. If taken during the fall or spring semester, the student must also enroll for at least 12 college-level credits to retain NJ STARS eligibility.
I have changed my major and now require a remedial course(s) for my new major. Do I lose my NJ STARS eligibility?
No, the student will not lose his or her eligibility. The student could take the required remedial course or courses at their expense (or paid out of non-NJ STARS funds). If taken during the fall or spring semester, the student must also enroll for at least 12 college-level credits to retain NJ STARS eligibility.
I have met the academic criteria for NJ STARS. What are the required financial aid criteria?
In order to receive NJ STARS funding, students must complete the FAFSA application every year by the required deadlines and choose Bergen Community Community College as one of their college choices (college code 004736). Students must also report the college code change directly to the state. This can be done by registering on the HESAA NJFAMS website and clicking “View and Update Your School” on the main menu in the HESAA student portal. After registering on the HESAA’s NJFAMS website, students should be sure that their state-based financial aid review is complete. Students must also submit any requested documentation asked by the financial aid office or the state of New Jersey. For more information on financial aid, please visit the Financial Aid website.
Can I receive NJ STARS and other scholarships or financial aid at the same time?
If a student qualifies for any additional financial aid award, those monies will apply first to the student’s account before NJ STARS. NJ STARS will cover the balance up to the amount of the remaining tuition. If additional fees are still outstanding, payment for these is the responsibility of the student. Students who are fully funded from other sources outside of NJ STARS funding are considered non-funded NJ STARS students and do not lose their NJ STARS designation.
Students should be sure that any outside scholarship information mailed to the College or hand-delivered to the Bursars Office specifically states that the scholarship can be used for education purposes or to pay for books and fees. If the scholarship check or paperwork accompanying the check states that the scholarship can be used for tuition, it will be applied to the student’s tuition, and NJ STARS will cover the balance up to the amount of the remaining tuition.
Students applying to the Bergen Community College Foundation for scholarships should be sure to let the Foundation know that they are an NJ STARS student so that if a scholarship is awarded, it will be one that can be used for educational purposes or for books and fees.
Since NJ STARS is a merit-based scholarship, why do I need to apply for financial aid?
HESAA requires that all students apply for financial aid so that if a student qualifies for any need-based aid, those monies will be applied to the student’s account before NJ STARS will be applied. Eligibility for additional aid besides NJ STARS is determined by completing the FAFSA application and the state financial aid paperwork by registering on the HESAA website. Finally, if the student is selected Federal or State verification, students must submit the required verification paperwork to Bergen Community College via Self-Service in their student portal to directly to HESAA by the required deadlines. For more information on financial aid, please visit the BCC financial aid website or email email@example.com.
When will my tuition be paid by my NJ STARS scholarship?
Tuition will be funded by the State by the end of each semester as long as all eligibility requirements are complete.
How much are my fees and where do I pay them?
Students can check the amount of the fees due by accessing their Registration Statement in their student portal. To access their Registration Statement, students should go to Self-Service in their student portal, click on Student Finance, click on the link for the semester, and then on the “View Statement” link at the top right corner of the Account Activity screen. Tuition and fees are listed separately at the top of the Registration Statement, and the fees are broken down at the bottom.
Students should only pay fees associated with tuition. Since partial payments cannot be paid online, after students are finished registering, adding and/or dropping courses, NJ STARS students should either pay their fees at the Bursar’s Office in Room L-127, or mail a check to the Bursar’s Office at Bergen Community College, 400 Paramus Road, Paramus, NJ 07652. For more information, visit the Bursar’s Office, Pitkin Education Center- Room L-127, call 201-447-7105, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was eligible for NJ STARS when graduating high school, but decided not to use it right away. Am I still eligible for the NJ STARS program?
Yes, students have until their 5th semester following high school graduation to activate their STARS eligibility. Please download the Self-Identification Form for Prospective NJ STARS Students, save it to your computer, complete it and save it again, and email it to Catherine Krostek.
New and transfer students should visit the “How to Apply to the NJ STARS Program webpage, access the NJ STARS Application Process Checklist, complete all steps including registering full-time, and sign and submit the NJ STARS Application/Contract.
What happens if I drop/add/withdraw from a course or courses?
Since NJ STARS students must be full-time (12 or more credits), any action that changes a student’s enrollment status (dropping, adding, withdrawing from courses) may result in a balance being owed, being dropped from classes, or loss of NJ STARS eligibility. In order to protect your NJ STARS eligibility, it is imperative to communicate these changes prior to making them.
NJ STARS students should communicate any change made from the date their NJ STARS Application/Contract is approved through the end of add/drop week to an Academic Counselor to be sure the course or courses will be covered, and that they will still be considered full-time students.
Students who wish to drop a course or courses after the end of add/drop week should communicate this with the NJ STARS Representative and/or Financial Aid before doing so. Please check the Registration Calendar for the current semester for the deadlines when students can add/drop courses as well as other important dates.
How many semesters of NJ STARS eligibility do I have?
Students are eligible for up to 5 semesters of eligibility. NJ STARS students have up to 5 semesters of eligibility or until they have enough credits to graduate with an Associate’s Degree. Nursing and engineering majors may take a 6th, unfunded semester in order to meet graduation requirements.
Does NJ STARS cover the cost of summer courses?
Currently, state funding is not available for NJ STARS to pay for summer classes. NJ STARS students may take summer courses to expedite their graduation and are responsible for payment for those courses.
How do I renew my NJ STARS eligibility?
To receive NJ STARS each semester, current NJ STARS students must enroll in a minimum of 12 college-level credits and complete the FAFSA and state financial aid applications each year by the deadlines. It is highly recommended students register early to have the most options for classes and pay for any fees by the payment deadline. In addition, NJ STARS Students must obtain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA by the beginning of their third semester, or second year, as an NJ STARS student to remain in the program. Please visit the NJ STARS Current Students webpage for detailed information.
What happens if my GPA falls below 3.0?
NJ STARS legislation requires that students maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA by the start of the 3rd semester of eligibility. Grades for any remedial courses taken will not be included in the cumulative GPA. Students whose GPA falls below a 3.0 must meet with an Academic Counselor to discuss options to bring up the GPA prior to the start of the 3rd semester. Students will also engage in an Enrichment Program forum during the warning period.
I do not need to be a full-time student in my final semester in order to meet all of my graduation requirements. Am I eligible to attend part-time?
A student may attend part-time in his or her final semester provided that he or she will meet all graduation requirements as a part-time student. Students who are enrolled part-time MUST meet with an Academic Counselor to be sure they have completed all other necessary courses. Failure to complete this step may result in loss of NJ STARS and/or NJ STARS II.
If I am determined as being academically eligible as a transfer student, what else do I need to do to be eligible for the NJ STARS Program?
If you are transferring in from another school mid-year, several steps will need to be completed. Students will need to request that their official transcripts from the institution be sent to Bergen Community College, Office of Registration to be evaluated. Bring unofficial transcripts with you on the day of registration. Students will also be required to update their financial aid information. This includes updating the FAFSA to reflect Bergen Community College as one of their college choices. If a FAFSA was not filed for the appropriate academic year, an application must be completed for the new semester. Students are responsible to confirm with the financial aid office that all documentation has been received. To see if any additional information is needed by the State, register on the HESAA NJFAMS student portal and click on “To-Do List” to see if any additional information is needed by the State. You must also check to see that Bergen Community College is listed as one of the college choices. This can be done by clicking “View and Update Your School” in the HESAA student portal and adding Bergen Community College from the drop-down menu.
If you are transferring for the fall semester, request an official transcript to be sent to Bergen Community College, Office of Admissions to be evaluated. Bring an unofficial copy with you on the day of registration. A FAFSA application will need to be completed for the appropriate academic year and Bergen Community Community College must be indicated as one of the school choices. To see if any additional information is needed by the State, register on the HESAA NJFAMS student portal and click on “To-Do List” to see if any additional information is needed by the State. You must also check to see that Bergen Community College is listed as one of the college choices. This can be done by clicking “View and Update Your School” in the HESAA student portal and adding Bergen Community College from the drop-down menu.
How do I qualify for NJ STARS II?
NJ STARS students can qualify for NJ STARS II if they graduate with an Associate’s Degree from a community college with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or greater. Students must graduate within 5 semesters (6th, unfunded semester available for nursing and engineering majors) and have a family income (taxable and untaxed income) of less than $250,000. Students must apply and be accepted to an NJ STARS II participating 4-year institution. NJ STARS and NJ STARS II eligibility does not guarantee or give preference to a student for transfer admission. All other admissions criteria and procedures required by the 4-year institution must be met by the student.
For eligibility requirements, please check the HESAA website for the NJ STARS II Fact Sheet for the year in question.
Will my credits transfer to a 4-year institution?
Proper planning is the key to a successful transfer. Bergen Community College has many resources to help students with successful transfer. Students should begin doing research early on possible majors and transfer schools and meet with a transfer advisor before attempting their 20th credit.
For more information on transfer, including guaranteed admissions programs, articulation agreements, on-campus bachelor degree completion programs, visit Transfer Services. You can also make an appointment with the NJ STARS Transfer Counselor in A-118.
What does NJ STARS II cover?
NJ STARS II will award qualifying students $1,250 per semester for two years at participating 4-year institutions in the state of New Jersey for a total of $5,000. NJ STARS II can now be used at public and private New Jersey schools.