New Jersey Wrestles with Price, Quality, Acces to Higher Education

New Jersey may be facing a higher education crisis due to price, quality and accessibility.

According to a report logged in by Jonathan Lai of The Philadelphia Inquirer the priorities for the state’s higher ed system, legislators were told at a meeting at Rowan University, are affordable, accessible, and successful higher education.  Speakers included students, administrators, and a faculty union president, who shared their concerns with the Assembly’s higher education committee.  This was the second of three hearings devoted to this topic.

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland)  and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D – Union) proposed a 20-bill package in March which recommended a list of changes for colleges and universities.

Ali A. Houshmand, president of Rowan University, which is located in Glassboro and has just under 11,000 undergraduates, pointed out that some solutions had to do with localized problems like improving academic advising and helping raise up students who drop out of school lacking just a few hours toward their degree.  Other problems were more systemic, he noted, like a lack of college options in South Jersey.

Houshmand supports Bill A2802, which would establish a “reverse-transfer” option allowing students who drop out of college to transfer their hours toward receiving  an associate’s degree.

He added that “county colleges” should not be looked down upon.  Rowan University has an agreement with Gloucester County College that allows students a guaranteed transfer to Rowan upon completion of a set program.  Another issue addressed at the meeting was students’ immigration status and how that affects their graduation viability.

Other areas of discussion, writes Andy Polhamus  for the South Jersey Times, included:

  • Locked-in tuition rates
  • Free electronic textbooks
  • Online courses
  • Closure of any school with a graduation rate less than 50%  graduation rate for full-time students over a six-year period
  • Tuition payments based on number of credit hours

Phil Dunn, reporter for The Daily Journal, quoted Assemblywoman Riley as saying:

“This is a big issue, the topic of college affordability, but it’s also about college remediation and what we are doing to make sure our college students succeed, both in their studies and as they transition to the workforce.”

Assemblyman Cryan said he was tired of waiting for the next big innovation:

“The graduation rates have not changed in 25 years, which means there are thousands of students who went into debt and left, and I won’t argue with you if they were prepared when they got there, but the bottom line is the accountability factor needs to change.”

New Jersey ranks sixth among the 50 US states and the District of Colombia in terms of percentage of the population which holds at least a bachelor’s degree according to website Statemaster. As of 2013, 34.6% of the New Jersey population had achieved at least a bachelor’s degree.

Among the states (excluding Washington D.C)., Massachusetts ranks first at 36.7%.