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Report: Rising N.J. college tuition bad for work force development

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A report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the average tuition at public, four-year colleges in New Jersey has increased by 13 percent, or $1,429, since the start of the recession.

Declining income, cuts in state support for colleges and universities and increasing tuition and fees are making it more difficult for New Jersey families to send their children to college, the group said. Funding for higher education has been cut by 27 percent since 2008. When adjusted for inflation, that proves a decrease in more than $2,500 per student. The report concluded these factors together undermine educational quality and make it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated work force.

“Despite the prevailing mythology that tax rates are the major factor in business location decisions, the evidence is overwhelming that it is the quality of the work force that is most important,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective President Gordon MacInnes. “Nothing better measures work force quality than educational levels, which is one of New Jersey’s greatest, but largely ignored, assets. Given this wisdom, one would expect that New Jersey would invest first in higher education, instead of leaving it at the back of the line.”

In its 2006 report, “Flunking Out,” NJPP found that tuition and fees at public, four-year colleges increased by 47 percent from the 2000-01 year through 2004-05. When the recession hit in 2008 and tax revenue dropped, many states slashed funding for higher education. As family incomes declined, enrollment at New Jersey colleges increased by nearly 20 percent, but these students have been saddled with rising student debt and delayed graduations.

“More jobs in the future will require college-educated workers,” said Phil Oliff, policy analyst at the CBPP. “For the sake of its economy and future work force, New Jersey should start reinvesting in its colleges and universities now.”

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