Commission on Higher Education
Promoting Excellence for All
to The Honorable James E. McGreevey, Governor
November 1, 2004
New Jersey Commission on Higher Education
Mr. Francis J. Mertz
Dr. Henry C. Johnson
New Jersey Commission on Higher Education
The New Jersey Commission on Higher Education is pleased to provide the Fiscal 2006 Budget Policy Statement, which is based on A Blueprint for Excellence, New Jersey’s long-range plan for higher education. Recognizing the state’s fiscal constraints, this statement summarizes all of the funding areas recommended in the plan for fiscal 2006, but underscores the two highest funding priorities for the coming year: institutional operating support and student assistance.
The quality and capacity of higher education in New Jersey has a powerful influence on the well-being of the entire state. Even at this time of severe fiscal constraints, perhaps especially at this time, educational opportunity and economic development are inseparable, and the future of the state is dependent on both. Strong, diverse higher education institutions educate the people who will lead and run the businesses and industries in our state, and the institutions’ research and workforce development initiatives stimulate and enhance the state’s economy.
A Blueprint for Excellence is not about the needs of colleges and universities; it reflects the perspectives of various stakeholders. Developed with broad-based input around the critical needs of the state, the plan focuses on two major public agenda goals for higher education:
These two goals are critical to the future well-being of New Jersey, and higher education is inextricably linked to achieving each of them. They are the overarching themes of the long-range plan and the focus of the recommendations in this budget policy statement.
New Jersey is facing unprecedented demand for access to higher education for several reasons. Recent projections indicate an increase of 10,000 high school graduates between 2004 and 2010. As a result of the knowledge-based economy, the portion of those high school graduates who go on to college will increase steadily. There is also a growing need to serve more nontraditional students (those who are not recent high school graduates) who seek higher education opportunities to meet workforce demands.
As New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities take steps to increase their capacity to serve more students and to improve student outcomes, state support for the institutions and for student assistance programs is essential. Recent data indicate that while the state is a leader in need-based aid per student, the share of income needed to pay for college expenses after financial aid at public four-year institutions has increased from 24 percent of income to 34 percent over the past decade.
It is critical that the state and institutions work together to enhance the economy by ensuring that higher education is affordable, particularly to groups that have been traditionally underserved. State census data indicate that there is a correlation between educational attainment levels within a city, county, or region and important indicators that affect economic prosperity and quality of life. Two counties at varying ends of the spectrum regarding educational attainment rates exemplify the impact of higher education.
The cost of not having an educated populace and skilled workforce is too great to ignore. While everyone does not need a college degree, the state has a shortage of well-prepared, skilled workers with appropriate credentials to support the pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, telecommunications, and other knowledge-based industries that drive the state’s economy. Educators face the difficult task of preparing individuals of all ages and backgrounds to participate successfully in society and the new economy. And this charge falls primarily to higher education.
New Jersey is faced with significant fiscal constraints, and yet we must find a way to address the growing demand for higher education to maintain and improve the state’s economy and quality of life. We are committed to working with state policy makers to ensure that high-quality educational programs are available to meet student and state needs. Consistent with A Blueprint for Excellence and focused on the public agenda for higher education, the Commission provides specific recommendations below for the fiscal 2006 budget, with a focus on the two fundamental higher education priorities:
State funding for institutional operating support and student tuition and fees are the two primary sources of revenue for colleges and universities. Consistent with the long-range plan, targeted operating aid increases are recommended to assist in minimizing increased costs for students.
Student Financial Aid
New Jersey has a longstanding commitment to financial aid programs that enable students from all backgrounds to have access to and the ability to afford a high-quality higher education. New Jersey ranks second in the nation in the estimated need-based undergraduate dollars per full-time undergraduate student, and fourth in the nation in the estimated undergraduate grant dollars per full-time equivalent student. When considering the number of awards provided through all undergraduate and graduate state programs, New Jersey is providing aid to more than one-third of its full-time students, which places it 14th in the nation.
Other Fiscal 2006 Funding Recommendations
As stated previously, institutional operating aid and student financial assistance are the areas of greatest need in fiscal 2006. However, the other areas of need identified in A Blueprint for Excellence for funding consideration in fiscal 2006 are also related to the public agenda goals for higher education and are summarized below.
Even in the face of significant fiscal constraints, prudent state appropriations for higher education are a wise investment, rather than an expense. Each of the previous budget recommendations addresses areas that are central to higher education’s capacity to improve student access and achievement and support the state’s economy. Within the context of overall needs, the two fundamental areas for increased investment in fiscal 2006 are: (1) institutional operating aid, and (2) student financial assistance programs. Widespread access to high-quality higher education opportunities depends on sufficient state support in both areas. The five recommended increases in specific areas represent efforts to address several targeted state needs.
The Commission on Higher Education recognizes that state government is faced with extremely difficult fiscal decisions. We respectfully encourage that all due consideration be given to the overall impact of educational attainment on the state’s future economy and quality of life as those decisions are made. Colleges and universities in New Jersey are the key to educational opportunity and economic development.
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Jersey Commission on Higher Education, 1994-2004
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Last Updated: November 15, 2004