Statement on Final Report of College Affordability Study Commission
September 29, 2016
The College Affordability Study Commission rightly pointed out the critical connection between state funding to the public four-year colleges and universities and the tuition and fees at those institutions. The key to keeping a college education affordable for all students at the public four-year institutions of higher education in New Jersey is sufficient, predictable, and sustained state investment in those institutions.
The College Affordability Study Commission also correctly noted the important role the institutions themselves play in constraining costs and presenting options to students to obtain their degree in the most affordable way possible. Many of our institutions have already implemented several of the recommendations in the report, including strengthening partnerships with county colleges and establishing dual-enrollment programs with local high schools.
We strongly agree with the commission’s focus to reduce the time it takes students to cross the finish line with their degree. New Jersey’s public four-year colleges and universities are already among the nation’s leaders in graduations rates, ranking sixth-highest in four-year and six-year graduation rates, and there is still more that can be done to accelerate students’ time to their degree.
The report is comprehensive and well written, and we congratulate the members of the commission and their staff on the final report. The leaders of our institutions look forward to continuing to review and consider the recommendations in the report.
Moreover, we will continue to seek solutions beyond funding and campus-based initiatives to address college affordability. For example, the State can help the state colleges and universities reduce the cost of their operations by updating 30-year-old laws and regulations over procurement and construction at our institutions to allow for more flexibility and cost savings. Details for these solutions can found under our legislative priorities for 2015-2018 on our website.
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The New Jersey College Affordability Study Commission, created by state law in February, 2015, is tasked with studying and making recommendations to increase the affordability of higher education in New Jersey. The commission is examining topics such as the state's student loan program (NJCLASS), the state's 529 college savings program (NJBEST), accelerated and affordable degree programs, a Pay It Forward Pilot Program, and any other proposal that may make college more affordable in New Jersey.
The Senate president and Assembly speaker appointed 12 members - lawmakers, public and private college presidents and faculty, members of the public and a current student to spend 18 months studying proposals to reduce college costs.
The members are as follows:
- Frederick Keating, President, Rowan College at Gloucester County, who was elected chair of the commission
- Ali A. Houshmand, President, Rowan University
- Robert L. Barchi, President, Rutgers University
- Nancy H. Blattner, President, Caldwell University
- Jonathan R. Boguchwal, Analyst, Township of North Bergen
- Donald C. Doran, Vice President of Student Affairs (retired), Ocean County College
- John Gorman, Deputy Research Director, New Jersey Senate Republican Office
- Timothy A. Haresign, Professor, Stockton University
- Giancarlo Tello, Student, Rutgers-Newark
NJASCU Executive Director, Michael W. Klein, JD, PhD, was invited to present a paper at an upcoming symposium in Oxford, England (December 9, 2015 - The Symposium on Financing of Education, now part of The Oxford Education Research Symposium.). Dr. Klein's paper "Free College Tuition Programs: Will They Be Effective" focuses on the concept of free college tuition, a topic very much in the news in the United States thanks in large part to the U.S. presidential campaign. The answer to the question he poses in this paper is that the free tuition programs will be effective if they are need (means) based, are available at four-year, as well as two-year, institutions, and include a way of financing the non-tuition costs.
Below is the abstract:
The object of this paper is to explore the efficacy of the proposals for free college tuition in the U. S. The White House and candidates running in the 2016 presidential election have offered such proposals, and the states of Tennessee, Oregon, and Minnesota, along with the City of Chicago, have enacted similar programs. This study uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, including an analysis of state funding for higher education, a statistical analysis of national enrollment and completion data, and a legal and textual analysis of the proposed and enacted tuition-free programs.
The study finds that the free-college-tuition programs share common fiscal, political and policy-related shortcomings. If only tuition is free, students must still find a way to pay for living expenses, books, and other supplies. The proposals often impose funding requirements on state governments that are poltically and fiscally unrealistic, such as providing millions of more dollars of support to public higher education.
The study also finds that subsidizing all students is not the most efficient use of government funding. Providing free tuition for all students would offer significantly more money to students from higher-income families than from lower-income families, especially under "last-dollar" programs requiring students to maximize federal and state aid programs before benefitting from the tuition-free programs.
The major policy concern over the free-tuition proposals aimed at community colleges is whether they will help produce more college graduates. Only about 20 percent of full-time students who start at community colleges earn an associate's degree within three years. Moreover, studies indicate that students who are capable of starting at a four-year institution but enroll instead in a two-year institution are less likely to graduate. This phenomenon is known as "under-matching."
The study concludes that tuition-free programs are most effective when targeted at low-income students through a means test for eligibility, and when students can use the benefit at four-year as well as two-year institutions. These students should also receive extra financial support for expenses beyond tuition.