Garden State Guarantee Program

Last Modified: Friday, February 9, 2024 1:05 pm

Garden State Guarantee

On June 29, 2021 Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation funding the Garden State Guarantee (GSG) effective beginning the fall 2022 semester. This page provides information about the program including eligibility requirements and answers to frequently asked questions.

What is the Garden State Guarantee (GSG)?

The Garden State Guarantee is a financial aid program that may provide up to four semesters of free tuition and fees for New Jersey junior or senior students enrolled at Montclair State University (or other 4-yr public NJ universities) based on the family’s federal Adjusted Gross Income (AGI):

  • A student with a family AGI between $0 and $65,000 will be eligible for free tuition and general fees.
  • If a student’s/parent(s)’ adjusted gross income is between $65,001 to $80,000, students will be able to receive assistance so their net cost for tuition and fees (out of pocket cost) is no more than $7,500 total for the fall and spring semesters combined ($3,750 per term).
  • If a student’s/parent(s)’ adjusted gross income is between $80,001 to $100,000, students will be able to receive assistance so their net cost for tuition and fees (out of pocket cost) is no more than $10,000 total for the fall and spring semesters combined ($5,000 per term).
  • Funding is based on annual state allocations from the state of New Jersey.


Students who meet the below criteria are eligible for the Garden State Guarantee:

  • NJ residents, including NJ Dream Act students – must meet the NJ HESAA residency requirements.
  • Must complete the FAFSA and meet all state deadlines to have state aid eligibility determined. Failure to complete your state aid process jeopardizes your eligibility for this program too. Check your state aid status online at HESAA.
  • The Adjusted Gross Income is based on parent(s)’ AGI for dependent students or student/spouse income for independent students. The income establishing eligibility is based on the income reported on the FAFSA for the academic year in question.
  • Students must be working toward their first bachelor’s degree and must have earned no more than 128 credits. Both continuing students and incoming transfers are eligible.
  • Must be enrolled full-time (12 credits or more) during the semester. GSG is only for fall and spring semesters and will not pay for additional credits beyond the flat rate (12-18).
  • Enroll full-time in your third or fourth year at Montclair State University. This is defined as having earned 60-89 credits for third year and 90-128 earned credits for fourth year (credits include those earned from different institution(s) as long as Montclair State has accepted the credits).
  • Students must complete all verification and document request requirements with the University or NJHESAA.
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress.


Consideration is automatic with your FAFSA or NJ Alternative Application! There is not a separate application beyond one of those to complete.

Remember these important application requirements:

  • Complete your FAFSA immediately if you have not already done so. NJ Dreamers should file the NJ Alternative Application found on HESAA’s website.
  • Students must file the FAFSA or NJ Alternative Application by HESAA’s state grant deadlines.
    • If HESAA requests additional documentation, submission deadlines must also be met.
    • You must also complete the state grant process (submit additional documents, if requested), regardless of eligibility for other state grant aid.
  • Students must also submit any requested documentation required by the Montclair State University Financial Aid Office.
Frequently Asked Questions

How is the GSG grant determined?

The GSG grant is based on the flat rate tuition and mandatory fees (not including cents) minus all federal, state, institutional and outside grant/scholarship aid.

When will the GSG grants be applied to my account?

The GSG grant will be added to the financial aid information as students become eligible (meet all NJHESAA criteria).

Am I eligible for GSG if I have an Associate’s Degree?

Yes, as long as you meet all other criteria above. Once you have earned 128 credits or completed your bachelor’s degree, you are no longer eligible.

What happens to my GSG eligibility if I take a semester off?

The GSG is available to eligible students for up to four semesters total while studying in their third and fourth years (as defined by earned credits). If you take a semester off, you will receive GSG when you return to Montclair State University as long as you continue to meet all program requirements, including the Adjusted Gross Income requirements.

The four semesters of eligibility include any GSG payments received while attending any other New Jersey four-year public university or college. If a student has received the benefit at another institution prior to transferring to Montclair State University, benefits received at the other institution count towards the four semesters of eligibility provided by the program.

While there is no time limit to receiving the GSG benefits, once a student earns 128 or more college credits, they are no longer eligible, regardless of enrollment or degree attainment status. Finally, please note this is a state program and legislation is beyond the control of Montclair State University. If the program is ever terminated, these benefits may no longer be available.

What happens if I withdraw from a course or all of my courses?

The GSG grant may be reduced if your tuition is adjusted due to your withdrawal. This partial payment counts toward the maximum number of payments allowed.

Can I transfer to Montclair State and still be eligible for GSG?

Yes, all credits earned that have been accepted by Montclair State University will count towards your eligibility. Remember that you must have earned at least 60 credits but not more than 128 to qualify for GSG. There is no requirement that you begin or stay at one school to participate in the GSG at Montclair State University.

I attended college several years ago and am considering returning to finish my bachelor’s degree. As a degree completion and/or adult student, am I eligible for GSG?

Yes, as long as you meet the program eligibility criteria described above. The GSG is perfect for returning students and is an excellent opportunity for those students who meet the independent status criteria on the FAFSA as the income guideline is based solely on your and your spouse’s income.

I missed the state deadline to file or complete my state grant application. Can I still get the GSG?

No. A missed deadline forfeits your eligibility for state programs for the semester in question. You may be eligible for a subsequent semester as applicable. HESAA filing Deadlines.

How do I determine my AGI?

For dependent students, only the parent(s)’ AGI is considered, not the student’s income. For independent students, the AGI of the student and spouse, if applicable, is considered. Please refer to the federal income tax return used on the FAFSA for the academic year.

My parents were not required to file a federal income tax return due to their circumstances. Am I eligible?

No. A $0 AGI is only eligible if your parent(s)/you and your spouse, if applicable, indicate taxes ‘Were filed’ or ‘Will be filed’ on the FAFSA. A blank AGI is not eligible.

My parents have a negative federal adjusted gross income (AGI). Am I eligible?

No. In accordance with the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority’s (HESAA) policy, families who have negative AGIs are automatically disqualified from both the Garden State Guarantee and the Tuition Assistance Grant programs.

I’m not eligible for state grants because of my family’s other income or assets. Will I still qualify for GSG?

The GSG program is based solely on the AGI figure and does not include other income or assets. It is straightforward so families can easily understand whether they qualify or not.

If I am paying for college myself, can my eligibility be determined by only my AGI?

The income requirement is determined by the AGI reported on the FAFSA. If you are required to include parental information on the FAFSA, the AGI used will be that of your parent(s), even if you are living on your own and supporting yourself.

What if I am independent?

If you meet one of the criteria to be considered an independent student on the FAFSA and were not required to include parental information on the FAFSA; or you are approved for a dependency status appeal by the University, then your revised AGI will be used to determine eligibility. Be aware that NJ HESAA does not accept all dependency status appeals for state funding.

My family’s income situation has changed and the income reported on the FAFSA no longer accurately reflects our situation. What are my options?

When family circumstances change, you may qualify to have your aid eligibility reconsidered through an appeal process known as Request for Review. Please refer to our appeals page for policy details and to submit the required documentation necessary for the income adjustment appeal.

If the adjustments Montclair is able to make meet the NJHESAA criteria, results in a qualifying AGI and there is a remaining tuition/fee balance after other grants and scholarships have been awarded, then GSG funds will be applied.

I have scholarships and grants but also live on campus, why can’t I use those funds to pay for housing and use GSG to pay tuition and fees?

The Garden State Guarantee program is a last-dollar grant program designed to help with tuition and fees. This means that it will only provide funding when there is a tuition and fee balance due remaining after all other grant and scholarships have been applied to your bill. In some cases, students receive enough free money from other sources that tuition and fees may be fully covered.

I am in the US on a visa. Am I eligible for GSG?

Any student for whom the University is legally required to charge in-state tuition rates is eligible for GSG (pursuant to N.J.S.A 18A:62-4.6). This includes students who hold an H4 visa.

I am eligible for Veterans’ Benefits? Does this impact my GSG?

No, any military tuition benefits paid to the school to cover tuition and fees are not included in the calculation for GSG eligibility.

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