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Affordability issues pushing students out of state, report says

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New Jersey is the state with the largest net loss of millennial students in the nation.
New Jersey is the state with the largest net loss of millennial students in the nation. - ()

New Jersey’s higher education is expensive, unattractive to in-state students and lacks the necessary skill building needed to succeed in the workforce, according to a report released Thursday by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s Education Task Force.

The annual report focuses on developing strategies to prepare New Jerseyans for the evolving workforce. This year’s report, entitled “The Education Equation: Strategies for Retaining and Attracting New Jersey’s Future Workforce,” focused on contributing factors to the state’s outmigration of students.

“To ensure our future workforce, our education programs must be aligned with the needs of the private sector. Without it, New Jersey will continue to see millennial outmigration negatively impact our business community and the state’s economy,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka said in a prepared statement.

As of fall 2014, 56 percent of high school graduates from New Jersey attended a degree-granting institution out of state. Additionally, the state only attracted 5,876 students from out of state, making New Jersey the state with the largest net loss of millennial students in the nation.

The report suggests students are not attracted by New Jersey’s institutions due to “lack of branding” and concerns about affordability and effectiveness.

Leaders of institutions of higher education have consistently criticized the state’s neglect toward education policy or planning.

“The state needs to create clear higher education priorities. A master plan in support of the state’s economic and social needs. It needs priorities,” Montclair State University President Susan Cole told NJBIZ earlier this month, a sentiment shared by other university presidents in the state.

According to the task force’s report, New Jersey has the fourth-highest tuition and fees for public four-year institutions in the nation. Between 1991 and 2016, the cost of tuition increased for full-time students by 142 percent while state appropriations per full-time student decreased 40 percent.

Additionally, the report cites that employers have suggested the workforce “lacks technical and employability skills, such as problem solving, teamwork and self-direction.”

These factors have led to New Jersey’s high outmigration numbers and low return on investment for the state’s education system.

“New Jersey taxpayers invest, on average, more than $20,000 per pupil per year for K-12 education and when students and millennials leave, the state gets no return on its sizable investment,” Siekerka said.

The report outlines various suggestions for tackling the problem, such as improving collaborations between higher education and private industry, investing in postsecondary institutions and expanding apprenticeship or internship programs for young people.

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Arthur Augustyn

Arthur Augustyn

Arthur Augustyn grew up in Massachusetts and previously covered the video game industry in Los Angeles, city politics in Malibu, California, and local news in Bergen County before working at NJBIZ. He currently covers cannabis, government and tech.

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