Decreasing Public Investment in Higher Education and the Rise of Student Loans: A Case Study of New Jersey
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
New Jersey is no exception to these trends. Moreover, making public higher education accessible is arguably more critical for New Jerseyans than for residents in many other states. In New Jersey, job growth is occurring fastest for occupations that call for postsecondary education. By 2018, New Jersey is predicted to be one of the top five states with the largest portion of bachelor-degree requiring job openings and over half of all jobs requiring some level of postsecondary education. Simultaneously, the cost of tuition at 4-year public institutions continues to rise. Many students leave the state for lower loan and cost options, simply do not attend university, or increasingly turn to private lenders to afford college.
Motivated by this situation, New Jersey Policy Perspectives (NJPP) partnered with graduate students at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers University – New Brunswick as part of the School’s capstone practicum project. The NJPP proposal tasked students with analyzing the true extent and effects of changes in tuition, state aid, and student debt levels in New Jersey, along with what steps the state should take to reverse the process. In the 2016 spring semester, a team of graduate students undertook the project, meeting weekly with a faculty advisor for guidance and reporting periodically to staff from NJPP for feedback and suggestions.
The project utilized data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the American Community Survey, and Institute for College Access and Success. Trends were examined for New Jersey and its senior public institutions and compared to data from six comparison states as well as national averages. New Jersey annual appropriations for four-year public institutions was compiled directly from published budgets on the state’s Office of Budget and Management website for fiscal years 2004 through 2015. Both tuition cost and funding were investigated in three ways: unadjusted dollars, CPI-U adjusted dollars, and HEPI adjusted dollars. Findings indicate that in comparison to other states, New Jersey is experiencing lower than average public aid and higher than average tuition costs, resulting in large proportions and amounts of debt among residents. Recommendations for specific amounts of new state appropriations as well as complementary public policies will be presented.