|Ultimately, the underlying lessons of the New Jersey experience are not the particulars of its restructured system nor even the fact of reorganization, but rather, the importance of the questions those involved had the courage to ask and address, namely, mindful of both the American tradition of institutional independence and the current call for public accountability: Are there functions currently undertaken at the state level which could more effectively and efficiently be carried out at the institutional level, and if so, what if any new mechanisms of accountability or changes in organization are needed?|
The Advisory Panel recommended a new governance structure for New Jersey higher education with the following framework:
| Governing boards of New Jersey's public colleges and universities
that are greatly strengthened to ensure institutions that
are more responsive to the needs of their students and communities
while being accountable to the public for maintaining quality,
affordability, and effective management;
A Presidents' Council that will draw upon the leadership and expertise of the presidents of New Jersey's colleges and universities to improve coordination and sharing of resources among these institutions and to provide advice on statewide planning and policy to the Commission on Higher Education;
A Higher Education Assistance Authority that will ensure both continuity and strengthened capacity to deliver student financial assistance and services to students more effectively, consistently, and with a minimum of bureaucratic red tape;
A New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, a public body to provide, in cooperation with the Presidents' Council, overall planning and policy coordination for the higher education system as well as advice to the Governor and Legislature on policy and budget priorities. Commission members, who will be appointed by the Governor and selected without regard for political affiliation, will be distinguished citizens of the state from a variety of backgrounds;
An orderly transition and implementation of key elements of the new structure.
Following the report of the Advisory Panel, legislation was crafted which can be summarized as follows.
The Department and Board of Higher Education were eliminated. With their dissolution, a level of bureaucratic review was removed. Under the new, entrepreneurial management paradigm, institutional governing boards have responsibility for planning, student tuition and fees, admission standards, degree requirements, investment of institutional funds, legal affairs, and a budget request for state support. In addition, institutional governing boards have authority for the academic program, personnel decisions, and initiatives for improvements in the physical plant. To document outcomes, the Commission on Higher Education approved a format for institutional accountability reporting.
The New Jersey Commission on Higher Education was created to provide general coordination, planning, and policy development in cooperation with the Presidents' Council. The Commission has responsibility for higher education master planning and advocacy. It recommends higher education initiatives and incentive programs to the Governor and Legislature. The Commission has administrative responsibility for proposed changes in programmatic mission, institutional licensure, university status, and new degree programs referred by the Presidents' Council. The Commission also reviews institutional budget requests and submits an annual coordinated budget policy statement to the Governor and Legislature. In addition, it maintains a liaison with the State Board of Education and Commissioner of Education as well as the federal government, and approves some higher education capital and equipment projects.
A Presidents' Council, composed of the presidents of all New Jersey institutions receiving direct state aid, also was created by the 1994 Act. The Act was revised in 1996 to include representatives of proprietary and religious institutions on the Council. The Council has responsibility for new program review, formation of regional and cooperative programs among institutions, and recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, and Commission on higher education policy issues. The Council has an advisory role regarding programmatic mission changes, new degree proposals which exceed mission or are unduly duplicative or expensive, and, upon referral by the Commission on Higher Education, provide recommendations concerning institutional licensure. The Council also assists and advises the Commission on statewide master planning and other policy initiatives. Much of the work of the Council is performed by its Executive Committee, which the Act also created.
Finally, the Act created the Office of Student Assistance to administer the student assistance programs established under the Student Assistance Board and Higher Education Assistance Authority as well as other student assistance programs, with policy advice from the Commission in several areas.
The Higher Education Restructuring Act became effective July 1, 1994. Both the Commission on Higher Education and the Presidents' Council were organized and held their first meetings in July of that year, and institutional governing boards immediately assumed final decision-making authority in the several areas which previously required Board or Department of Higher Education approval. The Office of Student Assistance (OSA) continued its operations, but now as a separate entity, and several other existing state agencies assumed responsibilities which were transferred as a result of restructuring. Those agencies include: the Departments of Education, Labor, State, Treasury, and Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Attorney General's Office.
State agencies, along with the Commission and the Presidents' Council, reported on a questionnaire regarding their progress in fulfilling restructuring responsibilities after 20 months. Of the 32 responsibilities assigned to the Commission, action occurred in 24 areas. Plans are underway in four areas: to work with the Graduate Medical Education Council and Health Commissioner to plan for medical education; to promote high school students' access to college courses with the Presidents' Council and Commissioner of Education; to consult with the Treasurer regarding the Garden State Savings Bond Program; and to complete the interim report on restructuring. Action has not been taken in the areas of visitorial powers (at the request of the Governor, the Commission may be asked to examine the performance of a college or university), distribution of federal funds, or apportionment of community college trustees, because the occasions have not arisen.
The Presidents' Council fulfilled 11 of their 15 responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities will be repeated on an annual basis. Plans are underway but not completed in the other four areas: to have a representative on the Commission on Holocaust Education; to assist participating institutions in making uniform guidelines/procedures for literacy tutoring programs; to assist in evaluation of the MAC program's impact on minority representation on college faculties; and to promote high school students' access to college courses in conjunction with the Commission on Higher Education and Department of Education.
The Office of Student Assistance fulfilled 12 of its 13 areas of responsibility. It has not presented astronaut awards because the program has never been funded.
Responsibilities assigned to other agencies have been undertaken with the following exceptions: 1) The Department of Education plans to work with the Presidents' Council and Commission on high school students' access to college. 2) Treasury has not yet received any reports from colleges regarding foreign gifts of over $100,000, and they have not overseen the Morehouse School of Medicine because it has not been funded since 1991. 3) The Department of State is studying how best to incorporate the New Jersey Institute of Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies into the "Many Faces, One Family" initiative. 4) The Department of Labor is developing regulations regarding job training courses for the unemployed.
Discussion of Some Key Implementation Responsibilities
The Commission was charged with making recommendations to the Governor and Legislature in four areas by July 1, 1995: collaboration between K-12 and higher education; the administration of student assistance programs; collective bargaining and civil service at the state colleges; and funding and tuition establishment. Recommendations were provided in all cases prior to July 1, 1995, with the exception of recommendations on funding and tuition establishment, which were provided in October of that year. In each case, recommendations were developed in consultation with members of the Presidents' Council. In some cases the recommendations have been implemented, and in other cases they await consideration for statutory changes.
For example, the study regarding the administration of student assistance programs resulted in a recommendation to consolidate the Student Assistance Board and the Higher Education Assistance Authority, as well as several recommendations to improve the delivery of student assistance. Consolidation of the boards awaits action by the Governor and Legislature, while many of the efficiencies to improve delivery of student assistance have already been implemented or are under development.
The Commission was charged with developing a long-range master plan with the advice and assistance of the Presidents' Council; no statutory timeline for completion was specified. The planning process has been underway for a year, and adoption of the master plan is expected by October 1996.
The Commission was also charged with reviewing, within one year, several sections of administrative regulation for amendments, continuation, or repeal. Responsibility for many regulations has been shifted to institutional governing boards. This action has had a significant impact on trustee and institutional responsibility. All reviews are completed, with the exception of the regulations pertaining to institutional licensure. Those regulations have been readopted with technical amendments only, while substantive changes are being developed in consultation with the Presidents' Council. Institutional licensure responsibilities continue to be carried out under the previously existing regulations.
The Presidents' Council has responsibility for new program review. The Council's New Program Review Committee was established in August 1994, and the Council adopted a new program review process as one of its first actions. Since that time, new proposals and many from a Department of Higher Education backlog of program proposals (some of which had been waiting for consideration for several years) have been reviewed. In some cases, communication, collaboration, and cooperation growing out of the review process resulted in consortial arrangements for new programs. Overall, the review process has resulted in the establishment of 73 new degree programs (23 at the associate level, 18 at the bachelor's level, 31 at the master's level, and 1 at the doctoral level). During the same period, six programs were discontinued. To date, the Presidents' Council has not referred any programs for the Commission's review as a result of their being deemed unduly expensive or duplicative. Further, no mission change proposals and only one programmatic mission change has been referred to the Commission by the Presidents' Council.
The Presidents' Council also formed a committee to make broad policy recommendations in the area of basic skills testing and remediation in light of the elimination of the state's basic skills test and policies. General guidelines were adopted by the Presidents' Council, and a more technical group is currently working to resolve practical questions regarding the feasibility and appropriateness of several assessment instruments.
Annual public institutional accountability reports are required by the Restructuring Act. The Commission adopted the form and general content of the report, and institutions made their first accountability reports available to the public in fall 1995. The Commission developed and disseminated the state's first systemwide accountability report in spring 1996 to inform the public and policymakers and assist in systemwide planning and policy development.
Public institutional boards of trustees have responsibility for recommending individuals to the Governor for appointment to their boards. Since the Restructuring Act, the Governor has appointed or nominated for Senate approval 71 individuals: 48 for state colleges and 23 for community colleges.
Institutional governing boards have set tuition for the past two academic years after conducting public hearings. In comparison to increases in the late 1980s and early 1990s in New Jersey and in other states, overall, tuitions have increased moderately (about 5%) during 1994-95 and 1995-96. Funding for the state's two primary student assistance programs, Tuition Assistance Grants (TAG) and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), has increased since restructuring. In fact, EOF grant awards for students were increased for the first time since 1987. In addition, the Commission and Presidents' Council have been advocates for an affordable higher education system through their annual budget policy statements to the Governor and Legislature.
|The discussion which follows is an analysis of data collected from a survey of higher education stakeholders. The questionnaire with a numerical tally of responses is contained in Appendix A.|
The Committee on the Interim Report on Higher Education Restructuring and Assessment worked with the Center for Public Interest Polling of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University to develop a questionnaire. The questionnaire focused on the specific goals outlined in the Restructuring Act, and also included general attitudinal questions about the Act.
A range of different groups was included in the study. The Committee provided Eagleton with a listing of potential study participants. Because there are widely varying numbers of people in these groups, in some cases the total population of group members was included in the study, while in other cases a sample of the group was contacted. Representatives from about 20 different groups participated.
Participants could identify with as many groups as they deemed were relevant to describe their position. Therefore the percentages of the total sample that the various groups comprise add to more than 100 percent. The groups that constitute 10 percent or more of the survey participants are: institutional administrators (46%), members of the Presidents' Council (20%), members of institutional governing boards (14%), and members of the Educational Opportunity Fund Professional Association (11%). In addition, 5-9 percent of the sample are comprised by faculty leaders (9%), financial aid directors (9%), members of the Commission on Higher Education (8%), Student Assistance Board members (6%), union leaders (6%), and student leaders (5%). Other organizations each represent less than 5 percent of the survey participants. Overall, 178 of the 401 selected participants returned completed questionnaires before the deadline, for a 44% return rate. Another 12 questionnaires were returned later (raising the rate to 47%) and are not included in this report.
Survey participants also identified their institutional affiliation. The sector representation is as follows: community colleges, 44%; state colleges/university, 25%; public research universities, 10%; independent colleges and universities with a public mission, 19%; proprietary institutions, 1%; and theological institutions, 1%.
Eagleton prepared questionnaire packets to be sent to participants. The packets included the following: a letter from the Committee explaining the purpose of the survey, a questionnaire, a postage paid return envelope for returning the questionnaire, and a postage paid return postcard that was returned independently from the questionnaire so that Eagleton could track responders/non-responders to the survey and maintain confidentiality. The questionnaire packets were mailed on February 9, 1996, and about a week later a reminder postcard was sent to non-responders.
Across the sample, overall assessments of restructuring have become more positive between the Governor's announcement of the changes and the present time. (See Table A.)
|Time 1*||Time 2*|
|Good idea/Positive change||36%||46%|
|Bad idea/Negative change||20%||10%|
|Mixed opinions/Mixed change||40%||39%|
Note: Percentages have been adjusted so that they sum to 100.
More precisely, there has been a 10-percentage-point increase in the share holding a favorable view--from 36% to 46%, and a similar decrease in negative views from July 1994 to March 1996.
When the restructuring was announced, (future) members of the President's Council were more favorable than (future) members of the Commission or members of institutional boards, and all three groups were more favorable than people involved in student assistance. (See Table B.)
|Commission||Presidents' Council||Institutional Boards||Student Assistance|
|Good idea/Positive change||36%||72%||56%||55%||29%||29%||11%||24%|
|Bad idea/Negative change||14%||7%||15%||9%||6%||6%||32%||11%|
|Mixed opinions/Mixed change||36%||14%||29%||36%||59%||59%||57%||60%|
Commission members have become much more favorable toward restructuring (and much less likely to hold mixed views), and are now the most favorable of the groups. People in student assistance have also become more favorable. Institutional board members have remained constant, and members of the Presidents' Council have remained almost constant in terms of favorable opinions.
|Good idea/Positive change||50%||62%||19%||31%||38%||14%|
|Bad idea/Negative change||11%||4%||44%||31%||25%||14%|
|Mixed opinions/Mixed change||38%||31%||31%||32%||25%||29%|
Initially institutional administrators were more favorable than students, and both were more favorable than faculty. (See Table C.) Administrators and faculty have become more favorable. In contrast, students have seen a decline in both favorable and unfavorable views, and an increase in "no opinion."
|County Colleges||State Colleges||Public Universities||Independent Institutions|
|Good idea/Positive change||40%||54%||43%||45%||31%||25%||13%||27%|
|Bad idea/Negative change||24%||7%||20%||20%||25%||19%||7%||3%|
|Mixed opinions/Mixed change||32%||35%||35%||33%||38%||50%||77%||57%|
Originally, the community and state colleges were the most favorable overall to restructuring. (See Table D.) Initially, the independent institutions expressed mixed opinions. Twenty months later the community colleges and independent institutions have become more favorable to restructuring. The state colleges have remained almost constant, and the public universities exhibited an increase in mixed views.
Another way to look at stability and change is to cross- tabulate current opinion by initial opinion, as is done for the sample as a whole in Table E. Only one-fifth of respondents who began with a positive view abandoned that view, mostly to mixed opinions. By contrast, more than half of the initially negative respondents changed their opinion, again primarily to mixed. Of those who began with mixed opinions, two-fifths changed; about three-fourths of the latter moved to the positive end of the scale.
|A Good Idea||A Bad Idea||Mixes Opinions||No Opinions|
|A positive change||80%||9%||29%||83%|
|A negative change||0%||44%||4%||0%|
One section of the survey instrument asks respondents to consider 13 conditions drawn from the restructuring legislation and characteristic of most higher education systems. They were then asked to comment on whether, following restructuring, the conditions were "Better," "Worse," "Same," "To Soon To Tell" or "No Opinion." The statements describing the conditions were:
If respondents to the survey were uniform in their responses and concluded all processes were "better," in the minds of those who completed the survey New Jersey would have an improved statewide higher education system following restructuring. Conversely, if responses were uniformly "worse," New Jersey would not have an improved system, in the minds of all who completed the survey. In the analysis of survey responses which follows, differences in perception by sector and professional position are evident.
As was pointed out previously, the Governor's Advisory Panel recommended that institutional governing boards be strengthened and a Commission on Higher Education and Presidents' Council created to form the nucleus of a new governance structure for New Jersey higher education. Another section of the survey asked about nine functions that are the shared responsibility of the Commission, the Presidents' Council, and institutional boards of trustees. The nine functions included:
Possible responses to these items of the survey were the same as in the case of the 13 conditions. (See Appendix A for distributional responses.) Uniformly "better" responses would indicate that the Commission, institutional governing boards, and the Presidents' Council, together, are perceived as having succeeded in undertaking the responsibilities of the former structure and performed at a higher level. Uniformly "worse" responses would indicate that respondents perceive performance to be at a lower level. In the analysis of responses which follows, respondents, who were members of the Commission, institutional governing boards, or the Presidents' Council, evaluated their own performance.
A substantial majority of Commission and Council respondents believe they know a great deal about how the Restructuring Act changed, and continues to change, New Jersey higher education. Virtually all of the Presidents' Council respondents indicate they know a great deal about the change, and one-half of institutional governing board members state that they possess significant knowledge of the effects of the Act. A large percentage of the student assistance professionals report some knowledge of the change. Respondents from the Presidents' Council are more likely than other groups to believe significant change occurred under restructuring. Almost half of the presidents believe that a great deal of change has occurred; two-fifths believe the change to be moderate. A majority of the Commission and institutional board members believe the change is moderate, and less than a fourth of both groups believe there has been a great deal of change.
In contrast to responses from the Commission and the Presidents' Council, there was only one multiple choice item on the survey where institutional governing boards exemplified a high degree of certainty: 71% saw institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs as improved. This suggests institutional governing board respondents simply did not agree in sufficient numbers to indicate certainty of the group. It is also true that they did not exemplify a significantly higher degree of doubt on any item. The institutional governing boards are neither certain nor doubtful on the effects of restructuring of New Jersey higher education.
All individuals who completed the survey were asked to evaluate the actions of the trustees, Commission, and the Presidents' Council following restructuring. They were asked whether the Commission, institutional governing boards, and the Presidents' Council, together, succeeded in undertaking the responsibilities of the former structure and performed at a higher level. In sum, they were asked how effective the principal entities of the governing structure were in implementing the Restructuring Act. The information below describes how members of institutional governing boards, the Commission, and the Presidents' Council evaluated themselves:
Among these three groups, institutional administrators were the most likely to say that they knew a great deal about the changes in higher education under the restructuring, while student organization leaders were the least likely. Faculty leaders, students, and administrators had similar opinions about the amount of change in higher education brought about by restructuring. "Moderate change" was the most frequent response in each case.
Regarding the 13 conditions drawn from the Restructuring Act, the views of these groups, following restructuring, are summarized as follows:
Administrators were joined by students--but not by faculty-- in their somewhat positive views of statewide coordination of academic programming and systemwide coordination of higher education. In sum, administrators were more consistently positive than either faculty or students.
Combining responses from different sectors yields results that reflect the fact that restructuring had less impact on the public research universities and the independent institutions (which had the most autonomy under the former governance structure) than on the state colleges and community colleges (which had less). Respondents from the community and state colleges were more positive than those from the public universities and the independent institutions. For example, the community and state colleges were more likely to believe that a great deal of change has occurred in higher education as a result of the restructuring; the public university respondents were unlikely to see great change. More than half of community and state college respondents believe that institutional governing board decision making has improved, and pluralities in those sectors believe that institutional governing board accountability has also improved.
To understand results summarized it is important to keep in mind that substantial majorities of respondents from the community college, state college, and public university sectors reported that they know a great deal about the changes brought about by the Restructuring Act. However, respondents from the independent sector were considerably less likely to claim this level of knowledge.
Regarding the 13 conditions drawn from the Act, the views of the higher education sectors following restructuring are summarized as follows:
The survey instrument invited respondents to comment further by way of elaboration on any survey item where they responded with "better" or "worse." All resulting verbatim written responses are contained in Appendix B.
Among the general responsibilities of higher education, the item which elicited the largest number of written responses was affordability of higher education, which had predominantly negative responses.
Other items eliciting written responses were institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs, which had mostly positive responses,
statewide coordination of academic programming, which revealed predominantly negative responses,
In the case of survey items referring to shared functions of the Presidents' Council, Commission, and institutional governing boards, there were fewer written responses per item. Written responses to the Commission's timeliness in addressing issues were predominantly positive.
Responses to the Commission's budget development process were predominantly positive.
Commission's coordinated systemwide advocacy received negative comments.
One advantage of conducting a survey and reporting the results in this interim report is that areas of agreement on what remains to be done to continue implementation of the Act are identified. Survey results reveal benchmarks for future success in implementing the 1994 Higher Education Restructuring Act. They also help to prepare the way for the 1999 comprehensive assessment.
Of the 13 conditions of higher education rated as better or worse now than before restructuring, the three conditions that clustered together as having the most frequent "better" responses were institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs (70%), institutional governing board decision making (47%), and institutional governing board accountability (38%).
The four conditions that clustered with the most frequent responses of "worse" were affordability of higher education (32%), statewide coordination of academic programming (23%), systemwide coordination of higher education (21%), and the trustee appointment process (19%).
As noted above, the survey instrument asked about nine functions that are the shared responsibility of the Commission, the Presidents' Council, and institutional boards of trustees.
Focusing first on the functions as performed by the Commission, the three items that clustered with the most frequent "better" responses were timeliness in decision making (41%), timeliness in addressing issues (41%) and cooperation among the various higher education entities (40%).
The two items that clustered with the most frequent response of "worse" were coordinated systemwide advocacy (20%) and availability of information on higher education (19%).
Focusing next on the functions as performed by the Presidents' Council, the three items that clustered with the most frequent "better" responses were timeliness in addressing issues (43%), timeliness in decision making (40%) and cooperation among entities (39%).
The two items that clustered with the most frequent response of "worse" were coordinated systemwide advocacy (17%) and availability of information on higher education (15%).
Finally, focusing on the functions as performed by institutional boards of trustees, the two items that clustered with the most frequent "better" responses were timeliness in decision making (31%) and timeliness in addressing issues (31%).
The three items that clustered with the most frequent response of "worse" were coordinated systemwide advocacy (12%), the budget development process (9%), and the availability of information (9%).
In all three groups the items receiving the fewest "better" responses were K-12 and master planning.
One question on the survey asked whether the respondent believed "the current higher education structure as defined in the 1994 Restructuring Act [should] be modified." Respondents were asked to describe suggested modifications. Across the sample as a whole, three-fifths of the respondents believe that it is too soon to tell whether the current structure should be modified (see Table F). Of the remaining two-fifths, a majority think modification is in order.
|Too soon to tell||59%|
Roughly three-fourths of institutional board members and student assistance professionals believe that judgment regarding modification is premature at this time (see Table G); a majority of Commission members agree, while slightly over one-third of Presidents' Council members concurred. About a third of Commission and Presidents' Council members favor modification; slightly under a fourth of institutional board members and student assistance professionals also agree.
|Commission||Presidents' Council||Institutional Boards||Student Assistance|
|Too soon to tell||57%||37%||76%||72%|
|Too soon to tell||53%||56%||57%|
Institutional administrators, faculty, and students are about equally inclined to say it is too soon to tell whether the structure should be modified--the percentages range from 53 to 57 (Table H). However, administrators are significantly less likely than the other two groups to favor modification, and about 20% more likely to oppose it.
The county college, state college, and independent sectors are all inclined to say that it is too soon to tell about modification (see Table I); only 31% of public university respondents hold this view.
|County Colleges||State Colleges||Public Universities||Independent Institutions|
|Too soon to tell||63%||59%||31%||70%|
Believing that the current structure should be changed is not necessarily linked with a negative view of restructuring. Of those opposing modification, 89% hold a positive view of restructuring; one-third of those favoring modification also have a positive view (see Table J). In fact, the most common assessment among those favoring modification is a mixed view of restructuring.
|The Current Structure|
|Assessment of Restructuring||Should Be Modified||Should not be Modified||Too Soon To Tell|
Of those who profess to know a great deal about restructuring 56% view it as a positive change; those who have only some knowledge or those with not much knowledge are less likely to view it as a positive change. (See Table K.)
|Amount of Knowldge|
|Assessment of Restructuring||A Great Deal||Some||Not Much||Nothing|
Suggestions as to how the governance structure created by the Restructuring Act should be modified, as might be expected, exemplify great variety. Some examples are: "There are still areas to be clarified but these will take time to evolve." and "Abolish and go back to former process."
Another survey question invited respondents to comment or make any suggestions they might choose on any aspect of the Restructuring Act not covered in other survey items. Again there was great variety in responses. Some examples are: "In general more time under the Act is needed to make more informed judgments." and "I feel that the 1994 Restructuring Act has been inadequately publicized."
Responses to individual survey items suggest both direct and indirect effects of the Restructuring Act which are best considered in the context of the overall findings and occurrences over the past 20 months. Such consideration leads to recommendations for continued improvement of New Jersey's restructured higher education system.
The Presidents' Council should examine both the manner in which statewide coordination of academic programming is currently being carried out and the adequacy of program review to ensure statewide needs are met. The area rated by the greatest percentage of respondents as "better" is institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs, an area which is directly related to deregulation initiated by the restructuring law. At the same time, about one-fourth of the respondents indicated that statewide coordination of academic programming is "worse" than it was prior to restructuring, while one-fourth indicated it was "better," and a fifth said "the same." Opinions regarding adequacy of new academic program review were evenly spread among "better," "worse," "the same," and "too soon to tell. Given the intent of the legislation to foster both institutional autonomy and statewide coordination with an emphasis on quality and cost-effectiveness, this area warrants attention.
The Commission, Presidents' Council, Office of Student Assistance, and boards of trustees should examine possible means of increasing systemwide advocacy and strengthening systemwide coordination. The effect of restructuring on coordinated systemwide advocacy, if any, is indirect, because a new advocacy structure was not specifically established by the Act. However, about one-fifth of the survey respondents felt that advocacy by the state's coordinating agency has deteriorated; a similar share saw improvement. Views regarding advocacy by the Presidents' Council were slightly more favorable. Similarly, about one- fifth of the respondents rated systemwide coordination as "worse," while others considered it better or had mixed views. Perhaps the fairest assessment is that advocacy and coordination may have failed to improve.
The Commission and Presidents' Council should consider publishing joint or separate newsletters providing information regarding activities of the two entities, as well as trends in higher education. Availability of information on higher education from the state coordinating body was viewed by almost one-fifth of the respondents as "worse" and by the same share as "better." Similar responses were generated regarding information from the Presidents' Council. Respondents may have based their opinions on general reporting of information or on responsiveness to ad hoc requests for information. However, since the survey was conducted, the Commission published the first higher education systemwide accountability report, which provides extensive information that was not previously made available. The impact of restructuring on this area is somewhat indirect; no specific change regarding state dissemination of information resulted from the Act itself. However, the systemwide accountability report is complementary to the Act's required institutional accountability reports. At any rate, the Commission's and Presidents' Council's roles in informing the higher education community and the general public merits further attention.
The Commission and Presidents' Council should request the Governor's Office to review the trustee appointment process in an effort to streamline and expedite it. The trustee appointment process was viewed as worse by about one-fifth of the respondents, and only one-eighth saw an improvement. The link between this area and the Restructuring Act is direct, in that an entire bureaucratic layer in the nominating process was eliminated with the expectation of expediting the process and providing a more enhanced role for boards of trustees. In fact, the process has not shown significant improvement or more timely appointments.
An additional area of concern is affordability. The link between restructuring and affordability is unclear, but the issue bears close watch to ensure that statewide goals of affordability and accessibility are met. More respondents felt this area is "the same" (43%) than said it was "worse" (32%). The latter group is sizable enough, however, to warrant concern. Affordability was a significant issue in New Jersey before restructuring, and it is an issue in most states irrespective of governance structure. Higher education costs have not accelerated significantly in the first two years since the Restructuring Act; tuition increases have been moderate, and state financial aid programs have grown.
Two additional areas that were perceived as worse by approximately 11% and 7%, respectively, are lack of progress toward a statewide master plan and the lack of communication between higher education and the K-12 system. These areas are directly related to responsibilities defined in the Restructuring Act. Ironically, these perceptions may be a result of inadequate dissemination of information as discussed above. In fact, the first master plan for higher education in New Jersey since 1981 is scheduled for completion by October 1996. A draft plan was disseminated broadly (after the survey was conducted) for public input before adoption of a plan that will be updated regularly. In regard to communication with the K-12 system, there is clearly need for improvement. However, collaborative efforts are underway as a result of the Commission's recommendations on K-12 and higher education collaboration. A joint agency working group has recently completed recommendations to the Commissioner of Education and the Commission's Committee on K-12 Collaboration regarding an issue of common concern -- a joint policy statement is expected from the two agencies this spring.
The restructuring of higher education reassigned duties previously carried out by the Board of Higher Education and the Department of Higher Education. As a result, some new entities were created, while some existing entities have new and different responsibilities.
Public institutional boards have much broader responsibilities and a requirement for annual accountability reports. There is a greater need for trustees to be well informed and prepared as they carry much of the weight for institutional decision making and significant responsibility for the success of a system of autonomous institutions.
The Presidents' Council has been assigned responsibilities not previously required of presidents. They must commit time and thought to the needs of the system, not solely those of their institution or sector. Their staff members also serve on systemwide committees to develop coordinated budget statements, develop basic skills testing policy, etc. These are time-consuming activities beyond usual institutional assignments.
The 17-member Commission on Higher Education assumed policy, planning, and advocacy responsibilities with a 21-member staff. Commission members do not merely rely on staff for decision recommendations; they are actively involved in planning and policy development, devoting significant time to committee work.
The Office of Student Assistance now functions as a free- standing administrative entity and works in collaboration with the Commission on student assistance policy development, guided by the Student Assistance Board and the Higher Education Assistance Authority. New Jersey's restructuring plan is an impressive effort to deregulate colleges and universities. New responsibilities have been undertaken to develop a system of effective, autonomous institutions operating within a coordinated statewide context. For all concerned there has been a redirection of effort. In the months ahead there is a need for all to renew their commitment to institutionalize the goals of restructuring.
Dr. Robert L. Albright
Member, Commission on Higher Education
Dr. Stanley S. Bergen, Jr.
Mr. Stanley S. Bey
Member, Commission on Higher Education
Dr. Peter F. Burnham
President, Brookdale Community College
Dr. William J. King
Member, Commission on Higher Education
Dr. Martine Hammond-Paludan
Executive Director, Commission on Higher Education
Mr. Francis J. Mertz
President, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Dr. Arnold Speert
President, William Paterson College of NJ
Ms. Gloria E. Soto, Esq.
Member, Commission on Higher Education