AGENDA FOR THE SENIOR PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES OF NEW JERSEY: 2015-2018
The Task Force started its report by stating, “Student access to an affordable college education and the economic prosperity of our state are at stake.” Funding is a critical component to addressing these issues. The Task Force noted that “New Jersey’s colleges and universities have suffered a long and steady starvation of State aid, under both political parties, even as costs and student demand have grown.”
In the four years since the release of the Task Force’s report, State funding has stagnated. The cost of a four-year degree at a public institution has remained high, and enrollment stands at record levels. The average in-state tuition and required fees at New Jersey’s four-year public colleges and universities in 2014-2015 ranked fourth-highest in the nation. Between the ten years between the fall of 2002 and the fall of 2012, enrollment at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities increased 27.4 percent, tenth-highest in the country. With State appropriations unchanged in several years, New Jersey is spending its lowest amount per full-time student in at least 25 years.
Capital funding is as equally important as operating aid. Even with the passage of the $750 million Building Our Future Bond Act in 2012, New Jersey’s colleges and universities have over five billion dollars’ worth of construction needs to provide and maintain the facilities needed for a 21st century higher education.
Meanwhile, New Jersey remains a national leader in providing student aid through a variety of programs. New Jersey provides over $425 million in student financial assistance through a mix of need-based and merit-based programs, benefiting in FY 2015 more than 141,000 students. To maximize the opportunities for New Jersey’s students to attend the college of their choice, it is important to scrutinize to ensure that they maximize their benefit to the public.
Public colleges and universities in New Jersey are also held back by anachronistic laws and red tape, and the result is constrained ability to meet the enrollment, workforce, economic and innovation needs of the Garden State. New Jersey has outdated, restrictive categories for its senior public colleges and universities that no longer accurately reflect the evolution of their mission and their comprehensiveness. These restrictive categories slow the ability of the institutions to implement and expand academic programs that would benefit their students and New Jersey’s workforce. With regard to burdensome regulations, the Kean Task Report wrote, “Regulation and unfunded mandates hamper creativity and stifle savings within New Jersey’s colleges and universities.”
By working toward achieving the goals listed below, we echo the urgency of the Task Force’s call to action:
New Jersey has no choice. Its colleges and universities, the students they serve, and the economy they propel can no longer be back-bench policy priorities. The doors to college classrooms must open for more students. Institutions must be able to protect and enhance their quality to fulfill their mission. New Jersey’s businesses must be able to recruit the best and brightest workers from each year’s graduating class. To ensure a future with a vibrant economy, an array of innovative businesses, an educated workforce, and an engaged citizenry prepared to solve the challenges of the 21st century, New Jersey simply must increase its investment in higher education.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Fund senior public institutions of higher education equitably, addressing past shortcomings and future needs.
a) Increase and Rationalize Operating Funding
The State must, as soon as possible, provide greater financial support for the operating budgets of New Jersey’s senior public colleges and universities. The State must establish a solid floor of support in FY2015 and beyond.
New Jersey should develop and implement a more rational and just approach to allocating State aid among senior public institutions of higher education. The approach should recognize mission, staffing, and service to students and citizens. When the State is able to increase its investment in higher education, it must establish a solid floor of support upon which a rational system for increased funding can be built.
Regular Capital Funding
The state should regularly invest in institutions’ infrastructure by providing annual capital support to cover maintenance, renewal, and refurbishment.
the State’s Responsibility to Fund Employee Fringe Benefits
The State’s investment in the employees of the senior public colleges and universities is critical to college affordability. The State should fully cover the cost of pension and health care costs for the institutions’ employees and not drain college operating budgets to pay for those obligations. The number of state-authorized positions at each senior public college and university, by which the state pays fringe benefits, should be updated to reflect the current workforce at each institution.
- The state should maximize awards for students at public institutions of higher education within the Tuition Aid Grant program.
- New Jersey's merit-based aid programs, including the NJ STARS program, should be transformed into a broader-based, more comprehensive program to achieve the important objective of retaining New Jersey's best and brightest students more effectively. Merit-based awards, such as NJ STARS I scholarships, should be portable to any institution of higher education in New Jersey.
Recognize – in statute – the evolution, comprehensiveness and maturity of New Jersey senior public institutions so that they are best positioned to meet evolving student markets and emerging state needs.
Jersey should revise its legal definition of “programmatic mission.”
- Under the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994 (NJSA 18A:3B-3),
“programmatic mission” is defined as “all program offerings consistent within
those levels of academic degrees or certificates that the institution has been
authorized to grant by the State Board of Higher Education prior to the effective
date of this act or approved thereafter” by the Commission on Higher Education
or the Secretary of Higher Education.
- The mission of an
institution of higher education is more than its degree programs. Institutional
mission should not be confused with institutional type. Traditional
classifications, developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching, group institutions by the level of degrees they offer and the breadth
of their curricula. Mission is, more accurately, a characteristic of
institutional identity, focus, accountability, and competence. Fidelity to
mission provides direction, informs choices, and aligns priorities.
- Under the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994 (NJSA 18A:3B-3), “programmatic mission” is defined as “all program offerings consistent within those levels of academic degrees or certificates that the institution has been authorized to grant by the State Board of Higher Education prior to the effective date of this act or approved thereafter” by the Commission on Higher Education or the Secretary of Higher Education.
Jersey should eliminate the legal bifurcation of the 11 senior public
institutions into “public research universities” and “state colleges and
- Under the Higher Education
Restructuring Act of 1994 (NJSA 18A:3B-3), "public research
university" means Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rowan
University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and “state
college" means any of the State colleges or universities established
pursuant to chapter 64 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes including any
State college designated as a teaching university.
- This legal differentiation
has lost its meaning and is anachronistic. All 11 institutions teach students,
perform research, and provide public service. Each institution’s mission is
broader than the simple difference between research and teaching.
- Legally recognizing the
broader missions of the 11 senior public colleges and universities would
streamline their ability to meet the academic demands of students and the
members of New Jersey’s workforce.
- Under the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994 (NJSA 18A:3B-3), "public research university" means Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Rowan University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and “state college" means any of the State colleges or universities established pursuant to chapter 64 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes including any State college designated as a teaching university.
governing boards of the senior public colleges and universities should initiate
the trustee nomination process by reviewing candidates and presenting them to
nominations for the senior public institutions of higher education should be
required to complete only one set of application forms that is acceptable to
the Executive and Legislative branches.
- Trustees, once confirmed, should be required to file only Conflicts of Interest forms as currently required, not the Financial Disclosure Statements required of State officials.
LEGISLATIVE REFORM AND REGULATORY PRIORITIES
- The public-private partnership program should be extended beyond the current statutory sunset date of August 1, 2015.
- The most important issue for the state colleges and universities are reforms to the procurement and construction provisions of the State College Contracts Law. These changes will allow institutions to become even more nimble and cost-efficient, purchase goods and construct facilities in a timely way, meet student demand, and remain a major force in the regional economy.
- The bipartisan Red Tape Review Commission should act favorably on the New Jersey Presidents' Council's "Regulatory Relief and Unfunded Mandates" report. The report enumerates statutes and regulations that tie the hands of all public colleges and universities in New Jersey.