Ronald Roach of Diverse Issues in Higher Education reports that a new policy brief calls for more investment in higher education in New Jersey to ensure that the state is more economically competitive in the future. The New Jersey Policy Perspective, based in Trenton, says that increasing higher ed spending is a better way to stimulate economic growth than looking for additional ways to cut taxes.
Gordon MacInnes, who heads up the NJPP and co-wrote the brief, explains that the current focus on tax cuts is counter-productive and is not the optimal way to help the state – which has continuined to struggle to regain its financial footing after the 2008 recession – get back to economic prosperity and long-term competitiveness. He said that with the talks about the tax cuts package favored by current governor Chris Christie now backburnered as a vote is now unlikely before the end of the current legislative session, it is an ideal time to talk about more education investment.
MacInnes notes that policymakers should be looking for ways to make a college degree more accessible and more affordable.
"If you want to create better jobs, what do you do? One, you return higher education to the radar screen. It's really dropped off the screen, and as a consequence it has not received the kind of attention, operating support and capital support that public higher education needs to maintain what it's doing now and to address issues down the road," MacInnes said.
The policy brief includes recommendations such as doubling the size of the state's Tuition Assistance Program by the 2014 fiscal year as well as tying the program's future funding to inflation. According to the brief, the total cost of all the proposed TAG changes would amount to about $325 million.
The brief also calls for as much as $400 million in additional funding for public and research universities in order to "stabilize" their budgets between now and 2017.
Investing in Innovation: Use a modest $25 million to establish a blue-ribbon commission to re-ignite New Jersey's exploration of promising fields for research and development. Allot at least $100 million in the second year to support the priorities identified by the new commission, to cover both building and operating costs. Expect this commitment to rise in future years to $150 million or so as new centers of public/private research and innovation are built and made operational. Cost: $180 million.