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Christie Vetoes Bill To Explore Ideas Aimed At Eliminating Need For Student Loans

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CHRIS CHRISTIE
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visits with students at Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City, N.J. Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, the day after defeating Democratic challenger Barbara Buono to win his second term as governor. The 51-year-old governor says he'll continue to push for opportunities for city children to get a good education. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed legislation Monday that would've explored ways to overhaul public higher education in the state and potentially eliminate student debt for many students.

The bill would've established a College Affordability Study Commission to study dramatic overhauls to public colleges, including a "Pay It Forward" tuition program. Under such a plan, students would agree to pay back a certain percentage of their income for a set number of years after getting their degree, instead of paying tuition bills while they are in school. In theory, students would only need to take out a loan if they need help covering the cost of books, food or housing while they're in college.

Christie nixed the bill Monday, the Star-Ledger reports, much to the dismay of the bill's sponsor, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

"I cannot express how disappointed I am in the governor's veto," Sweeney said in a statement. "We are facing a college affordability crisis here in New Jersey. The answers won't just present themselves. We have to act."

No state has such a plan in place, but ever since Oregon passed a bill in the summer of 2013 to explore implementing Pay It Forward tuition, a number of other legislatures have begun to consider similar measures. The idea has caught on from Hawaii and Washington state to Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, although apparently not in the Garden State governor's mansion.

College students in New Jersey graduate with an average of $29,287 in debt, the 8th highest in the nation, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Christie commended lawmakers for focusing on student debt, but said the bill wasn't necessary.

"Quite simply, the proposed work of the Commission is redundant of current efforts underway by the Secretary of Higher Education and [Higher Education Student Assistance Authority]," Christie said.

The vetoed bill would've also tasked the proposed commission with reviewing ways to improve the state's 529 college savings plan, the New Jersey Better Educational Savings Trust, and how to make the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students Loan Program more consumer friendly.

Sweeney plans to reintroduce the bill in the new session.

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