Public higher education has never, at any time in New Jersey’s history, been a high priority for the state. But the dramatic disinvestment in public higher education that has occurred over the last decade is unprecedented, and it has caused a major shift of the costs of public higher education from the state to students and their families, constituting an effective user-tax on a large and very important segment of the state’s population.
Let me share a few straightforward facts: Montclair State University has 17,475 students. That is 4,000 more students today than it had in the year 2000. Montclair State granted degrees to 3,477 students last year. That is 1,200 more degrees than it granted in the year 2000. Notwithstanding that growth, the proposed state budget for next year provides Montclair State with direct state appropriation that is less in actual dollars than we received in 2000. In that budget, state appropriation per student drops 31% below the level of support in 2000, which means that tuition must cover more of the costs.
This year, Montclair State has seen a 20% increase in undergraduate and graduate applications. New Jersey citizens are voting with their feet. They want a place in one of their excellent state colleges, but many of them won’t get one, and they will continue to be forced out of state or have to forgo the opportunity for a higher education.
The fundamental principle of public higher education, the principle that is at the heart of our mission, is that individuals with ambition and ability in our state and nation should have the opportunity to go to college without regard to the circumstances of their birth or the income level of their families. And the purpose behind that principle is that this nation needs the contributions that can be made by a broad range of its citizens.
As alumni of Montclair State, I know you will want to join in our effort to reach out to state legislators to voice your concern. You can do that by registering on www.njcollegepromise.com and by getting friends, neighbors, and members of organizations, clubs, and churches to do so as well. We invite you to join the New Jersey College Promise Action Network to help strengthen New Jersey by staying informed about the issues and sharing your views on them with our state legislators.
Susan A. Cole, President