Higher Education:
Assessing the Past, Looking to the Future

New Jersey's Plan for Higher
Education: 1999 Update
The Five-Year Assessment of
Higher Education Restructuring

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New Jersey's Strategic Course Toward Higher Education Excellence

On the cusp of a new millennium, the first update of New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education converges with the statutorily required assessment of higher education restructuring. These related efforts afford a unique opportunity for New Jersey to evaluate its progress in implementing a new higher education governance structure, while planning the strategic course toward excellence.

Much has been accomplished since the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994 eliminated unnecessary state oversight and increased the decision-making authority and accountability of New Jersey's colleges and universities. The law established a tripartite governance structure consisting of the Commission on Higher Education, the Presidents' Council, and individual trustee boards. The structure has evolved and improved over time, enhancing institutional autonomy, systemwide collaboration, and innovation.

The joint Commission and Presidents' Council report, The Five-year Assessment of Higher Education Restructuring, finds the new structure workable and desirable, although some operational improvements are recommended. Together, the Commission, college and university presidents, trustees, and other members of the higher education community have embraced their new responsibilities, working energetically and collaboratively to achieve key statewide goals for higher education.

One of the most significant achievements is the development and ongoing implementation of the state's first long-range plan for higher education since 1981. Adopted by the Commission in 1996, New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education articulates the state's vision to be among the best in the world, embracing excellence, access, and affordability. It serves as a guide for planning and policy development by institutions and the state.

The long-range plan identifies essential conditions for achieving the vision for higher education, such as adequate and predictable state funding, institutional and systemwide accountability, a well-developed technology infrastructure, and coordinated advocacy. It also focuses on the needs of students and society, making specific recommendations to address statewide concerns including:

  • Efficient and effective use of resources
  • Education and workforce training
  • Economic growth
  • Community and civic commitment
  • The environment
  • Health and health care

An intense commitment at all levels of the higher education system has enabled institutions and the state to successfully address many of the plan's original recommendations. Now, as it reaffirms the vision, recommendations, and principles of good practice articulated in the original plan, New Jersey's higher education community vigorously sets forth on the strategic course toward excellence articulated in New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education: 1999 Update.

The Strategic Course Toward Excellence

While continuing to pursue the plan's original recommendations, the higher education community will also focus on two key areas fundamental to making New Jersey higher education competitive with the best higher education systems in the world.

Focus on Institutional Strengths - New Jersey can and should dare to reach for excellence in higher education. To a large degree, success in achieving this goal will depend on individual institutions' ability to achieve prominence in specific academic or research areas.

New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education: 1999 Update encourages institutions to build on their strongest programs and make them competitive with peer institutions that are among the best in the region, the nation, or the world. While this should not come at the expense of other viable programs, institutional trustees must be willing to aggressively reallocate resources from weak or underenrolled areas.

The Commission will assist in this effort by developing funding strategies to support the quest for excellence at institutions where there is evidence of strong planning and leadership in key areas that coincide with state goals and priorities.

Raising Awareness - Higher Education is critical to New Jersey's future. Public and independent colleges and universities keep the state's economic engine humming through workforce training, marketable research, and direct assistance to small and developing businesses. Their myriad education and public service programs enhance the quality of life for all New Jerseyans.

Communicating higher education's vital contributions to society is fundamental to building support for public investment. The Commission on Higher Education will develop and initiate strategies to raise the profile of New Jersey's diverse system of colleges and universities and increase awareness of their fundamental value to the state and its citizens.

New Jersey's Vision for Higher Education

New Jersey's system of higher education aspires to be among the best in the world, embracing excellence, access, and affordability. The quality of the state's public and independent colleges and universities will serve as a magnet to attract both resident and nonresident students and highly qualified faculty. Institutions will model tolerance and civility, celebrating the diversity that creates rich learning environments. A major force in developing the full potential of New Jersey and its people, higher education will serve all residents who have the interest and potential to learn, regardless of their economic circumstances.

The state's higher education system will develop and nurture the citizens and leaders of the future, preparing individuals for fulfilling lives, rewarding careers, and lifelong learning. Technology will strengthen the system and improve access, efficiency, and program effectiveness into the 21st century and beyond. Through teaching, research, and public service, colleges and universities will support the state's public policy goals of economic growth, social stability, and enhanced quality of life. New Jersey will value and support its investment in higher education, and institutions will seek innovative, collaborative approaches to meet the challenges ahead, committed to serving a globally competitive society.

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