New Jersey Commission on Higher Education

The Restructuring of New Jersey
Higher Education

Executive Summary

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An Interim Report to the Governor and New Jersey Legislature

Adopted by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education
and the New Jersey Presidents' Council
July 1996

Executive Summary

New Jersey's higher education system is nearing the end of its second year under the new governance structure created by the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994. The law requires the newly established Presidents' Council and Commission on Higher Education jointly to conduct an interim assessment of the restructuring after two years and a more definitive assessment after five. This report presents the results of the interim assessment.

The report is based primarily on two surveys. In the first, the Commission and the President's Council, as well as various state agencies given responsibilities for higher education by the Restructuring Act, were asked to indicate whether tasks assigned to them as a result of restructuring have been addressed. Results from that survey indicate that of the 85 assignments, 67 are complete or in various stages of implementation, and 18 are still in the planning stage.

As an example of work completed, the Commission, in consultation with members of the Presidents' Council, submitted recommendations to the Governor and Legislature in four areas designated by the legislation. Specifically, results of studies of funding and tuition establishment, student aid administration, collective bargaining and civil service and recommendations for increased collaboration between higher education and secondary education were completed and advanced. The Commission, with the advice and assistance of the Presidents' Council, is completing a master plan, with adoption expected by October 1996. The Presidents' Council reviewed 73 new degree programs, an ongoing assignment. Public colleges and universities prepared and released institutional accountability reports and will continue to do so on an annual basis.

The second survey asked members of all the major New Jersey higher education constituencies, as well as key state policy makers, their opinions about restructuring, both generally and specifically.

Receiving especially positive ratings were: institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs; institutional governing board decision making and accountability; timeliness in addressing issues and making decisions on the part of the Commission, the Presidents' Council, and institutional boards; and cooperation among these entities.

The report makes recommendations in four areas that received less favorable ratings from approximately one-fifth of the respondents:

  • ADVOCACY AND SYSTEMWIDE COORDINATION: The Commission, Presidents' Council, Office of Student Assistance, and boards of trustees should examine possible means of increasing systemwide advocacy and strengthening systemwide coordination.

  • INFORMATION ON HIGHER EDUCATION: 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.

  • STATEWIDE COORDINATION OF ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING AND ADEQUACY OF THEIR REVIEW: 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 that statewide needs are met.

  • TRUSTEE APPOINTMENTS: 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.

    While affordability is viewed by almost half of the respondents as the same or better under the new structure, it is still an issue of concern because one-third of the respondents believe it is worse. Affordability is an issue in states across the nation regardless of the governance structure. Its relationship to restructuring is unclear. Under any circumstances, this area bears close watching to ensure that statewide goals of affordability and accessibility are met.

    Overall, the interim assessment indicates that there has been considerable progress in developing and nurturing New Jersey's new governance structure for higher education. While this assessment identifies areas for improvement, it is too soon to determine whether any major structural changes should be considered. The Commission and Presidents' Council will continue to monitor progress, and will make a more definitive assessment in 1999 as the Restructuring Act requires.

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