Cost of N.J. colleges a steep climb, report finds

TRENTON – A new report claims New Jersey colleges are increasingly unaffordable for residents.

The report from a Washington, D.C.-based center states that declining family income, reduced state support, and increasing tuition and fees have combined to place in-state colleges out of reach for many New Jerseyans.

In addition, the report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that weakened educational quality harms businesses’ ability to hire a well-educated work force here.

This report comes at a time when residents last year approved the first bond issue for improving public college infrastructure in years.

The bipartisan effort to win voter OK for the $750 million bond is critical to building state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories to stem the outward migration of top students and faculty, higher-education officials have said.

In addition, the state last year also undertook a massive reorganization involving Rutgers University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry, and Rowan University that in part will help Southern New Jersey develop into a magnet for top talent.

But this report from NJPP maintains that for many families, the dream of attending college in New Jersey is unrealistic.

The average tuition at a public, four-year college in New Jersey has increased by 13 percent, or $1,429, since the start of the recession, the report stated.

At the same time, New Jersey has cut funding for higher education by 27 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, a decrease of more than $2,500 per student, according to the report.

N.J. Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes said in a release that “Nothing better measures workforce quality than educational levels, which is one of New Jersey’s greatest, but largely ignored, assets.”

For students in New Jersey, graduating within four years is a steep climb, the report stated.

At only three of New Jersey’s 12 four-year institutions do half the students graduate in four years (The College of New Jersey, Ramapo College and Rutgers-New Brunswick), NJPP stated.

And students from poor and low-income working families — as measured by eligibility for Pell Grants — have the most difficult path to graduation. At New Jersey City University, where almost two-thirds of students rely on Pell Grants, only slightly more than one third graduate within six years, the report stated.

Report:

The full CBPP report can be found here: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3927

Cost of N.J. colleges a steep climb, report finds