New Jersey Commission on Higher Education

The Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System

Adopted March 1998

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The Commission on Higher Education is responsible for long-range planning for higher education in New Jersey. In January 1997, the Commission appointed a blue-ribbon task force to make recommendations called for by the Higher Education Restructuring Act on the need to establish, close, or consolidate higher education institutions in the state. The Blue-Ribbon Task Force on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System conducted a thorough and objective examination of current and projected higher education needs across the state and presented its report to the Commission in January 1998. The Commission subsequently reviewed, discussed, and considered public input on the report, and based on the fine work of the task force, the Commission provides the following findings to the Governor and Legislature.


Capacity Issues

The Commission concludes that there is no need to establish, close, or consolidate higher education institutions in New Jersey. The state's public and independent colleges and universities form a system that efficiently provides broad access to higher education. Some state residents choose to attend college in New Jersey while others choose out-of-state institutions. However, the overall rate of participation in higher education is high compared to other states, as is the overall level of educational attainment, providing the state with an educated citizenry and workforce.

While new higher education institutions are not warranted at this time, there are some specific capacity issues that should be addressed. The northwest (e.g., Sussex and Warren counties), southeast (e.g., Atlantic and Cape May counties), and coastal (e.g., Monmouth and Ocean counties) regions of New Jersey have limited access to postsecondary degree programs, and all three regions are projected to grow in college-age population in the next several years. We recommend institutional collaboration and competitive service delivery models to respond to potential student demand in these areas. Specifically, we suggest the establishment of multi-institution centers by two- and four-year institutions for each of the three regions. The centers should offer collaborative and joint degree programs both on site and through distance learning. These centers may also be helpful in meeting specific statewide programmatic needs as they arise, such as an identified shortage of computer science degrees in relation to projected occupational demands.

Distance learning and instructional technologies also play a critical role in addressing capacity and access issues. New Jersey's colleges and universities are already engaged in distance learning, and the Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund will assist the institutions as they expand connectivity and information technology to allow for enhanced distance learning opportunities. Ongoing statewide collaboration in the development of technology infrastructure and an appropriate operational environment for distance learning, including preparation of faculty, is essential to New Jersey's K-12 and higher education systems, as well as to its overall economy.

In order for the higher education system to continue to meet capacity needs, both on campus and through distance learning, increased support for maintenance and renewal of facilities is critical and should take precedence over funding for new construction. While there are periodic programs to assist with capital expenditures, currently there is not sufficient funding to address annual maintenance and renewal needs at the state's senior public institutions.


The issue of outmigration of large numbers of New Jersey high school graduates to attend college has spurred controversy for many years. The state has long provided scholarships to attract additional high-achieving New Jersey high school graduates to attend college in the state, and a new pilot scholarship program was established in 1997. Overall, New Jersey ranks ninth in funding merit scholarships nationally, without considering the new pilot program. Nonetheless, data indicate that a large percentage of students, many of them high-achievers, continue to leave the state to attend college.

Maintaining an educated populace, however, seems unaffected by the outmigration of New Jersey students. The state's level of educational attainment and the quality of the workforce are high despite college student migration patterns, as one might expect given the mobility of today's society.

On the other hand, high-achieving students can favorably impact the quality of colleges and universities, and the vision in New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education calls for a higher education system that is among the best in the world. For that reason, enrollment of high-achieving students, along with other facets of institutional quality, should be examined as the higher education system reviews progress toward achieving its vision.

Educational Opportunity

While New Jersey's needs for undergraduate education are being met, economically and academically disadvantaged students and students for whom English is a second language warrant special attention. The Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), the Tuition Aid Grant (TAG) program, and the Education of Language Minority Students (ELMS) grant program extend access to a significant number of minority and disadvantaged individuals throughout the state. Support for each of these programs should be enhanced to ensure educational access for the growing population in need of such assistance.

Low Enrollment Programs

New Jersey's system of higher education must focus on using scarce resources effectively. An analysis of existing program offerings indicates that there is not unnecessary program duplication among the institutions. There are, however, many low-enrollment programs which warrant a review to determine if they should be continued, phased out, or offered in collaboration with other institutions.

Collaboration and Articulation

New Jersey colleges and universities are involved in a large number of collaborative degree programs and other related activities, which is an indicator of efficient use of resources. The transfer and articulation recommendations, which are under development by the Presidents' Council, also impact the efficiency of the system. By improving articulation between colleges and facilitating the transfer of courses from one college to another, student and institutional time and resources are saved.


In 1996 the Commission on Higher Education and the Presidents' Council collaboratively developed a long-range plan for higher education in New Jersey, Looking to the New Millennium: New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education. The plan calls for a periodic review and refinement of recommendations, and the first such review is now underway. Based on recommendations from the Blue-Ribbon Task Force on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System, the long-range plan review will specifically address the following:

Related ongoing efforts will also respond to the findings and recommendations on capacity. Accountability reports focused on institutional and systemwide efficiency in meeting state needs will continue to inform planning and decision-making. Efforts will continue to increase support for TAG, EOF, and ELMS in order to improve access for students who are economically or educationally disadvantaged or who speak English as a second language. Efforts will also continue to establish a maintenance and renewal funding program for senior public institutions.

In addition, the Presidents' Council will finalize its recommendations on articulation and transfer to improve articulation between colleges and ease student transfer from one college to another. The Council will also develop a plan for regional centers for the higher-order preparation of faculty in the use of technology and distance learning, as called for in the long-range plan. And the Council's and Commission's Higher Education Technology Advisory Committee will continue to develop recommendations for an interconnected technology infrastructure for higher education and an appropriate operational environment for distance learning.


The work of the Blue-Ribbon Task Force on the Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System provided the Commission with significant and objective information on which to base its conclusions regarding capacity issues. While there is no need to establish, close, or consolidate institutions, there are several capacity-related issues to address. As those issues are considered through long-range planning and by various committees and task forces established by the Commission and Presidents' Council, the information provided in the task force report will continue to be a valuable resource. The Executive Summary of the full report of the task force follows.

The summary of the Blue-Ribbon Task Force report to the Commission, which follows, provides an overview of the study findings, and a summary of its recommendations. The full report and accompanying appendices (approximately 120 pages) contain additional background and data. The full report will be distributed broadly. You may request a copy of the complete report by calling: (609) 292-4310.

If you have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, you may view the full report here.


January 1998

by the Blue-Ribbon Task Force on the
Capacity of New Jersey's Higher Education System

Prepared in Consultation with MGT of America, Tallahassee, Florida


Background and Purpose of Study

In January 1997, the Chairman of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education (the Commission) announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force (Task Force) to evaluate the capacity of the state's higher education system and to make recommendations to the Commission on the establishment, expansion, closure, or consolidation of institutions as mandated by the Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994. A Request for Proposal was issued by the State of New Jersey in early March 1997, for the purpose of securing a qualified consultant to:

  1. assist the Task Force in collecting and analyzing relevant data regarding the demand for and provision of higher education in New Jersey; and based on these analyses

  2. propose recommendations and alternatives to the Task Force regarding the effective and efficient provision of higher education in the state.

MGT of America, Inc., was selected by the proposal review team to assist the Task Force in this evaluation effort.

The initial work of the task force focused on collecting public input on these important issues via three public hearings around the state. These hearings were held in the Camden area, Trenton, and Newark in early June. In addition to the public testimony given at these hearings, written testimony was also submitted for consideration by the Task Force.

The work of the Task Force and MGT from July through October focused on the collection and analysis of relevant data and other information regarding the capacity of New Jersey's system of higher education. This overview of the Task Force report provides a summary of major findings and recommendations based on these analyses.

Major Study Findings

The Current Level of Participation in Higher Education Anywhere by New Jersey High School Graduates is High as is the Overall Level of Educational Attainment of New Jersey Residents

Our analysis indicated a number of positive aspects relative to the participation of New Jersey residents in higher education and of the overall degree of educational attainment of New Jersey residents:

In short, New Jersey high school graduates participate in higher education at a relatively high level compared to their peers nationally. Likewise, state residents are well educated compared with those of other states.

From a macro-level perspective, these are very positive signs for New Jersey. The state has a high level of well-educated individuals to meet the current needs of employers in the state. The high level of participation in higher education by New Jersey high school graduates suggests that this pattern of "intellectual capital" development will continue in the future which could also have a positive impact on the state's future level of educational attainment and continued economic growth and development. A related positive indicator for the future is the fact that, assuming a relatively similar pattern of statewide degree production continues in the future, there will be more than enough individuals being granted associate, masters, and first professional degrees relative to the projected annual job openings requiring those levels of education, while there will be a small deficit of bachelors and doctoral degrees granted statewide relative to projected annual job openings. While this should only be viewed as a relative indicator of fit between future labor supply and demand, it is still a positive indication for future economic growth, especially since most of the projected growth in jobs statewide through 2005 is in occupations requiring some form of higher education.

At the same time, it should be acknowledged that a sizable proportion of the higher education received by New Jersey residents is taking place outside of the state. A significant number of high school graduates leave the state each year to attend colleges and universities in other states, which is likely due to the relatively high level of income enjoyed by state residents and the proximity of New Jersey to a number of higher education institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and other eastern seaboard states. Data also suggest that many of these students have high levels of academic achievement (e.g., high SAT scores), which would also contribute to out-migration given that high-achieving students typically have more higher education options to choose from (in and out of state). Likewise, the relatively high level of educational attainment of state residents is due in part to New Jersey's status as a net "importer" of individuals with college degrees. In fact, New Jersey itself has a below average level of degree production relative to its population.

While some may interpret these below average indicators to mean that the state's current system of higher education does not adequately meet the needs of state residents, we believe that an equally valid interpretation is that the educational needs of the state and individuals are largely being met through the current scenario. Given the mobility of our society, state systems of higher education can't be viewed as "closed systems" to serve or capture every potential student in the state. Many of those states that followed the closed system philosophy and built large numbers of colleges and universities to serve state residents are now faced with situations where some of these institutions are not economically viable due to low enrollments and other inefficiencies and/or state resource constraints. New Jersey, on the other hand, has followed a more "open system" philosophy of meeting higher education needs which seems to have been successful in addressing participation in higher education and promoting educational attainment in the state - two key goals of any state system of higher education.

Nevertheless, the issue of outmigration, particularly of high-achieving students, remains a concern to many. The Task Force heard extensive testimony on this issue at its second round of public hearings in December, and deliberated on it at some length.

While the Task Force continues to believe that New Jersey's overall level of educational attainment and quality of its workforce are not harmed by the outmigration of these students, it acknowledges that the enrollment of high-achieving students can favorably impact the quality of colleges and universities. New Jersey currently ranks ninth nationally in its funding of merit scholarships. The state has for some time contributed $7.5 million annually for this purpose, and in Fall 1997 initiated a pilot project that provided an additional $3.0 million for the 1997/98 academic year to recruit academically superior, freshmen students. One hundred and eighty-seven (187) additional students were recruited at a cost of $16,275 per merit scholarship for Fall 1997. It is not clear that additional dollars alone will attract these students.

The Task Force's charge focused on the capacity of New Jersey's higher education system, not its quality; however, concerns about this issue prompt the recommendation that the Commission on Higher Education, working with the Presidents' Council, may wish to examine the many facets of quality necessary to achieve the vision for higher education articulated in New Jersey's Plan for Higher Education, which states that "New Jersey's system of higher education aspires to be among the best in the world…" The enrollment of high-achieving students is one measure of that quality.

There Are Some Pockets of Potential Demand Within the State

Despite these very positive findings, our analysis did indicate pockets of low access to degree programs for some individuals in the state - specifically in the northwest, southeast, and coastal regions. These also happen to be among the only regions in the state with a projected growth in college age population over the next several years. As suggested by the one individual during the public hearings, this could be addressed through the establishment of new public institutions. However, we do not believe that the establishment of any new institutions is warranted at this time. In addition to the fact that statewide enrollment has actually declined during the past few years (with no reduction in institutional capacity), the time and cost involved in establishing new institutions would still not address these more immediate access needs. Further, if past history is any gauge of the future, there is no guarantee that students from these (or other regions) would decide to attend, even if new institutions were established. Instead, we feel that these needs can be met through the current system through institutional collaboration and competitive service delivery models in responding to potential student demand.

Likewise, we found examples of some more specific potential needs that could also be met through the state's system of higher education. Three areas that need specialized consideration include the increasing diversity of the population a growing number of economically and academically disadvantaged students and large numbers of students who use English as a second language. While we found that two of the state's primary mechanisms for meeting the needs of these students - the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) and Tuition Aid Grants (TAG) - currently extend access to higher education for minority, academically and economically disadvantaged students, the growing number of these students in New Jersey higher education as well as the projected continued growth in the state's non-white population indicate a need to enhance these and other related mechanisms in the future.

The third potential area of specialized need pertains to those residents who use English as a second language. Our analysis found that one-fifth or more of households in 11 of New Jersey's 21 counties do not use English as their primary language at home. Concerns were also raised during the public hearings related to the diminishment of support for ESL students, many of whom are placebound.

A final specific programmatic need is in the area of computer science, where we found that there are areas of the state which have low access to computer science programs. This is consistent with related concerns that were mentioned during the public hearings and testimony process of this study. We also found that the overall number of computer science degrees granted statewide on an annual basis is not sufficient to meet projected demand in related occupational fields.

New Jersey's Higher Education Delivery Structure is Generally Efficient

One of the major issues of this study was the efficiency with which higher education is provided by New Jersey's system of higher education. Our findings on the efficiency of the system were generally positive:

As an aside, we feel that the current pattern of reasonably optimal facilities utilization suggests a need to have a systemic program of ongoing facilities maintenance and renovation for New Jersey colleges and universities if this pattern is to continue in the future. More specifically, we believe that funding maintenance and renovation should take precedence over funding for new construction.

There were, however, some potential areas of concern related to efficiency that should be noted:

While these issues are not insignificant, we believe that they should not overshadow the other very positive indications of efficiency mentioned previously. Rather, we believe that these three issues could be addressed effectively through corrective action within the current system that could also be used in some ways to address the regional access needs described earlier. For example, Salem and Warren County colleges are also located in or near the regions where there has been low access to higher education for some individuals, which suggests that any potential unused capacity at these institutions could be used to help meet these regional access needs at little or no additional cost to these two institutions.

Specifically, we recommend the establishment of "multi institution centers" in the northwest (e.g., Sussex and Warren counties), southeast (e.g., Atlantic and Cape May counties) and coastal (e.g., Monmouth and Ocean counties) areas of the state to offer associate, bachelors, and graduate level instruction to placebound residents (e.g. working adults). Such centers could involve partnerships between two- and four-year institutions (public, private, and proprietary) to offer collaborative and joint degree programs on site through distance learning, providing "one-stop" shopping for students. In addition to meeting more general regional higher education needs, this model would also help meet more specific programmatic needs such as the computer science example mentioned earlier, as well as helping to address the continuing education needs of working adults, which was also mentioned as a "need" during the public hearing process.

We further recommend that the programs that are offered at these centers be selected and delivered via a market mechanism such as a bidding process among institutions to encourage competition and facilitate the most effective and efficient delivery of services to students. This is not unlike the mechanisms used to establish and provide "contract training" courses offered by community colleges to private industry or continuing education programs offered by universities to working professionals. This would require the use of existing staff to coordinate this competitive delivery of services to students.

These "centers" could be established at a host institution such as a community college, at a high school, or in other available commercial space. A specific recommendation as to the locations of these centers is beyond the scope of this study, although we recommend that they be located centrally within these regions, and near major transportation networks to optimize access.

This model would have a fiscal impact for participating institutions. In addition to the direct costs of hiring additional faculty to teach the necessary courses students would require academic and student support functions such as advising, registration and records, adequate library facilities, and computing support. Also, an overarching cost would be incurred in coordinating the services provided at these centers, especially if there were an environment of market competition for delivering the services. The goal is to foster and encourage institutional cooperation, using the existing structure and student demand for determining programs.

The existing resources of participating institutions would help partially defray any additional cost of providing these services. Related to this is our finding that there is currently a pattern of reasonably optimal facilities utilization by New Jersey institutions, which suggests a need to have a systematic program of on-going facilities maintenance and renovation for colleges and universities in the state, especially if existing institutions are used to deliver services via the multi-institution center model. Additionally, there are two institutions located in these regions - Salem and Warren community colleges - that have low enrollment levels (see Section 5-5 of Chapter 5.0) which suggest potential unused capacity that could be used for this purpose at little or no additional cost to these institutions.

The Environment for Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies is Positive

A majority of New Jersey institutions also extend access to higher education for state residents through distance learning technologies. Our evaluation of the current status of distance learning and instructional technology usage by New Jersey institutions indicated a large and growing utilization of these modes of instructional delivery, primarily via video tape and interactive video classrooms.

We commend the work of the Higher Education Technology Task Force, whose recent recommendations provide a useful starting policy framework for distance learning and instructional technology initiatives within the state. However, in implementing the recommendations of the Higher Education Technology Task Force, we urge the Commission and the Presidents' Council to create a regulatory environment that maximizes quality but does not put cumbersome mechanisms in place for New Jersey institutions regarding the offering of distance learning-based courses and programs. Because this is such a rapidly growing national and international marketplace, New Jersey colleges and universities could be placed at a competitive disadvantage relative to out-of-state providers if they do not have the flexibility to respond to consumer (i.e., state residents and employers) demand in a timely and efficient manner.

We also urge the Presidents' Council to continue to closely monitor this emerging pedagogical area to see what incentives (e.g., faculty/staff training, technical support) might be necessary in order to ensure the effective and efficient use of these technologies for learning, and develop proposals for those incentives where appropriate. The Higher Education Technology Task Force recognized this by recommending that faculty and staff training and development in technology needs to be made a high priority for the state.

Summary of Recommendations

Our basic finding is that New Jersey's existing system of higher education is well placed to meet the future needs of the state with some minor modifications and initiatives. Our recommendations are organized according to our intended audience:

Recommendation to the State:

Recommendation to the Commission:

Recommendations to the Presidents' Council:

We believe that these modifications and initiatives will help enable New Jersey's system of higher education to be well placed for the demands of the future.

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