December 17, 1999
CONTACT: Jeanne Oswald
(609) 292-4310

New Director Points to Higher Education Strengths and Key Student Needs

Midway through his first year, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education offered his observations about New Jersey higher education and its future, and said a tighter focus on key student needs will propel the system toward excellence and national prominence.

While his first seven months on the job have been enlightening and exhilarating, James E. Sulton, Jr. said his one frustration is that the higher education system's many strengths remain a well-kept secret. The Commission intends to tackle this problem by increasing awareness of New Jersey higher education and its vital contributions, and pressing for an excellence initiative that will enable selected institutions to build on strong programs in targeted areas.

"For me, students are at the heart of the higher education enterprise, and decisions at all levels of the system should consider their needs," said Dr. Sulton. He cited ease of transfer and campus diversity as two key areas that directly affect the student learning experience.

"Student transfer and articulation is perhaps the boldest expression of a genuinely learner-centered approach to higher education," Dr. Sulton said during the Commission's regular monthly meeting in Trenton. While faculty members, administrators, and college presidents are working hard to ensure the smooth transfer of credits from two-year to four-year institutions, Dr. Sulton said New Jersey needs a seamless statewide process that addresses varying student needs and differences among each institution's courses and programs.

He highlighted the need for statewide implementation of an online transfer system known as ARTSYS, which allows college students to evaluate transcripts, determine course equivalencies, and assess their prospects for transfer. "A pricetag of roughly $1 million to get ARTSYS up and running and about half that to maintain the system annually seems a bargain compared with the ongoing cost that lost credits and repeated courses impose on students, parents, institutions, and the state," Dr. Sulton said.

Pointing to campus diversity as another area that requires a student-centered approach, Dr. Sulton said that given New Jersey's diverse enrollment and supportive climate, the state has a unique opportunity to demonstrate national leadership. "Governing boards and institutions must capitalize on diversity -- a strength of our higher education system -- through conscious efforts to weave diversity and multiculturalism into the fabric that unites each campus community," said Dr. Sulton. Noting that a diverse campus community benefits all students, he called on each institution that has not already done so to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses recruitment of underrepresented students, faculty, and staff; campus climate and intergroup relations; new approaches to curriculum and teaching; and accountability.

Dr. Sulton's full report is available HERE..

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