New Jersey's Neglect of Public Colleges and Universities Puts the State's Economic Future at Risk

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Jersey families hoping to send their children to college face a perfect storm of declining income, cuts in state support to public colleges and universities, and steadily increasing tuitions and student fees. New Jersey has cut funding for higher education by 27 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, a decrease of more than $2,500 per student, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). These cuts have driven up tuition and student fees, undermined educational quality and made it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

The immediate consequences of this are clear: the average tuition at a public, four-year college in New Jersey has increased by 13 percent or $1,429 since the start of the recession.

This increase comes on the heels of large increases in tuition and fees at New Jersey’s public, four-year colleges in the early 2000s; in its 2006 report Flunking Out, New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) found that tuition and fees at those schools increased by 47 percent from 2000-01 to 2004-05.

“Despite the prevailing mythology that tax rates are the major factor in business location decisions, the evidence is overwhelming that it is the quality of the workforce that is most important,” said NJPP president Gordon MacInnes. “Nothing better measures workforce quality than educational levels, which is one of New Jersey’s greatest, but largely ignored, assets.”

“Given this wisdom, one would expect that New Jersey would invest first in higher education instead of leaving it at the back of the line,” MacInnes added.

When the recession hit in 2008 and tax revenue dropped, most states relied heavily on spending cuts rather than a more balanced mixed of spending cuts and revenue increases. As a result, many states slashed funding for public colleges and universities.

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