Reducing the Cost of Public Higher Education

by Robert P. Haney, Jr

New Jersey has suffered from a lack of direction in its policy toward funding public higher education for the past 15 years, since the elimination of the State’s commitment to fund 70 percent of State College costs and the subsequent elimination of the Department of Higher Education[1]. During that period, it has gone from having a well financed and affordable system of public higher education, to now having one of the least affordable in the nation. Students and their families, as well as the state’s economy, have suffered from this lack of vision. Undergraduate tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities, which averages $8,180 a year, is now the second highest in the nation,[2] and a four-year undergraduate education is increasingly out of reach for the average resident, especially students from low-income families.[3] The economic loss of failing to provide the opportunity for higher education is tremendous: the U.S. Census Bureau found that workers over 18 with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with only a high school diploma earn an average of $27,915[4].

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