By Darryl G. Greer
CEO, New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities
On March 10, Gov. Jon S. Corzine presented an austere fiscal 2009-2010 state budget that cuts appropriations to the nine state colleges and universities by $13.8 million, or 5 percent.
This reduction in college operations funding would be the seventh this decade. New Jersey has ranked near the bottom of the 50 states in new higher education investment for more than five years straight. Dollars received by institutions next year will only equal funds received 10 years ago – not adjusted for inflation.
Meanwhile, the demand for public higher education in New Jersey is at an all-time high, and the state’s colleges are serving 98,000 students, which is 20,000 more than a decade ago.
New Jersey’s retreat from state funding of public higher education facilities amounts to this: We are denying growing numbers of New Jersey’s citizens a fundamental asset for success in today’s world: a four-year college degree.
We must make the investment needed to move New Jersey in the positive direction envisioned by President Barack Obama, which is making the United States number one globally in college degree production within 10 years. Our failure to move forward on this front means a dream deferred for too many of our talented New Jersey students.
In the short-term, even in a challenging budget situation, to help with college opportunity, the state can preserve and enhance student financial aid funding. Additionally, no further operating budget cuts should be made, and if possible, the state should put back some money in state college budgets to maintain quality, broaden access and minimize tuition increases. The government can encourage legislation to support a bond issue for facilities improvement at the nine state colleges and universities.
There is time to act on this year’s budget. The New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities pledges to work cooperatively with the governor and legislature so that the final budget preserves, to the extent possible, college access, affordability and quality.
The Association will also continue to work with others, including student activists and alumni, to lead a drive to get more citizens registered with New Jersey Promise Action Network, a public advocacy vehicle available to all who support investment in the state colleges and the prosperity of the Garden State. The address of the Web site based network is njcollegepromise.com.
Those who care about the future of state colleges ought to register with the Network and encourage others to do the same. The future of college opportunity will hinge upon an electorate that makes its voice heard.