Blue-Ribbon Task Force Presents Recommendations on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System to Commission on Higher Education
The Blue-Ribbon Task Force on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher
Education System today presented to the New Jersey Commission
on Higher Education its final report and recommendations regarding
the size and structure of the higher education system and its
capacity to meet the needs of New Jersey and its diverse population.
"The task force's findings are very positive," Joseph
D. Williams, chairman of the Blue-Ribbon Task Force, told Commission
members at their monthly meeting in Trenton today. "While
there are a few unmet needs, we found that New Jersey's higher
education system is well placed to meet current and future demand.
No new institutions are necessary to meet the needs of students,
employers, and the state, and no major changes in the system are
The task force was specifically charged by the Commission with
making recommendations on the establishment, expansion, closure,
or consolidation of institutions, in response to a mandate in
the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994. The Commission
will review and discuss the task force's report and recommendations
over the next two months, before adopting a final report and recommendations
to the Governor and Legislature.
The report presented today indicates that New Jersey's system
of 56 public and independent colleges and universities is efficient,
as measured by several key indicators:
New Jersey does not have a surplus of institutions relative
to its population;
Nearly all public institutions are operating at cost-effective
Program duplication is very low;
Collaboration among institutions on delivery of programs is
Instructional space is used efficiently.
The report contains eight recommendations the task force believes
will help the higher education system better meet the future needs
of the state. These recommendations include:
Rather than add institutions to meet regional and program-specific
higher education needs, New Jersey should establish multi-institution
centers involving partnerships between existing two- and four-year
institutions (public, private and proprietary) to offer collaborative
and joint degree programs, both on site and through distance learning;
Although the outmigration of New Jersey students does not
negatively affect the state's level of educational attainment
or its supply of qualified employees, the task force recognizes
that the recruitment and retention of high-achieving students
can favorably impact the quality of New Jersey colleges and universities.
Therefore, the Commission on Higher Education, working with the
Presidents' Council, may wish to examine the many facets of quality
necessary to achieve New Jersey's vision for higher education
excellence, including the enrollment of high-achieving students.
One-fifth of all degree programs in the state have low enrollments,
and the Commission on Higher Education should ask each institution's
board of trustees to justify these undergraduate and graduate
programs, phase them out, or offer them in collaboration with
Numerous concerns were raised regarding the experience of
community college students transferring to senior institutions
and the Presidents' Council should develop a coordinated statewide
transfer and articulation policy;
Given the importance of ensuring access to higher education
for an increasingly diverse population, the Commission on Higher
Education should seek enhanced state support for programs that
serve students who are academically or economically disadvantaged
and those who speak English as a second language, such as the
Educational Opportunity Fund, Tuition Assistance Grants, and programs
for ESL students; and
To ensure the continued optimal usage of college and university
facilities, the Commission on Higher Education should establish
a program for ongoing building maintenance and renewal, and funding
for this purpose should take precedence over funding for new construction.
Appointed in January 1997, the nine-member task force considered
broad public input regarding the demand for and delivery of higher
education programs. Over 80 people testified before the task
force at three public hearings held last spring and three additional
public hearings held in December following the release of the
panel's draft report and recommendations. The task force also
met with college presidents and reviewed written comments submitted
by more than 200 individuals and organizations.
The Commission on Higher Education adopted a resolution commending
Mr. Williams and the members of the Blue-Ribbon Task Force for
their comprehensive report and thanking them for their service.
The Commission will discuss the report at its February 27 and
March 27 meetings; adoption of a final report is tentatively scheduled
for March 27.
A summary of the task force's Report and Recommendations on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System is available here. A copy of the full report may be requested by calling the Commission's office at (609) 292-4310.