The Five-Year Assessment of
A joint report of the
adopted June 25, 1999
New Jersey’s higher education system is nearing the end of its fifth year under the new governance system created by the Higher Education Restructuring Act. Shortly after taking office in January 1994, Governor Christine Todd Whitman called for a new governance structure for higher education in New Jersey, with greater autonomy for colleges and universities at the heart of her recommendation. To help formulate the requisite statutory changes, the Governor appointed a 15-member advisory panel drawn from the ranks of higher education administration, the K-12 community, the Legislature, the private sector, and other organizations concerned with higher education in New Jersey. After public hearings and deliberation, the panel made specific recommendations for a tripartite governance structure designed to increase institutional autonomy and accountability and better serve state needs.
The Legislature concurred with the panel and used its recommendations as the foundation for a new statutory governance structure. The resulting July 1994 restructuring act declares that eliminating unnecessary state oversight will spur institutional creativity and innovation and that placing greater decision making and accountability at the institutional level will better enable New Jersey colleges and universities to fulfill their missions and to serve statewide goals. It further declares the need for state level coordination as well as cooperation among the institutions to achieve institutional excellence and effectiveness in addressing state needs and providing an affordable and accessible system of higher education in New Jersey.
With the enactment of the restructuring law, the former Board and Department of Higher Education were eliminated. Dissolving these entities reduced the extent of state involvement in institutional matters and removed a level of bureaucratic review. A new shared governance structure was established. The tripartite, entrepreneurial governance model consists of the Commission on Higher Education, the Presidents’ Council, and the individual institutional trustee boards.
Under the new paradigm, boards of trustees are ultimately responsible for the governance of their institutions. They are specifically charged with responsibility for institutional policy and planning, student tuition and fees, admissions, degree requirements, investment of institutional funds, legal affairs, and a budget request for state support. The institutional governing bodies also have authority for academic programs, personnel decisions, and initiatives for improving institutional facilities. To document institutional outcomes, the public institutions prepare annual accountability reports, for which the Commission approves the reporting format.
The role of the Commission in the new paradigm includes general systemwide coordination, research, advocacy, planning, and policy development, with advice from the Presidents’ Council. The Commission recommends higher education initiatives and incentive programs to the Governor and Legislature and submits an annual coordinated budget policy statement to the Governor and Legislature. It also has authority for institutional licensure, university status, institutional requests to exceed or change their programmatic mission, and new degree programs referred by the Presidents’ Council as unduly costly or unduly duplicative. In addition, the Commission works with the Department and State Board of Education, other state agencies, and the federal government; approves higher education capital and equipment projects funded through state bonds; administers several state grant programs; and holds regulatory authority in statutorily designated areas.
The Presidents’ Council is responsible for new program review; formation of regional and cooperative programs among institutions, including policies for transfer and articulation; and recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, and Commission on higher education policy issues. It also makes recommendations regarding funding for higher education and student assistance programs. The Council has an advisory role on programmatic mission changes and new degree proposals that exceed an institution’s mission or are unduly duplicative or expensive and, upon referral by the Commission, provides recommendations on institutional licensure and relicensure. The Council also assists and advises the Commission on statewide planning and policy initiatives. The Council was originally comprised of the presidents of the 45 public and independent New Jersey colleges and universities receiving direct state aid; 1996 amendments expanded the membership to include four representatives of the 11 proprietary and religious institutions. An Executive Board, also created by the act, is authorized to carry out much of the Council’s work.
The restructuring act also created the Office of Student Assistance as a separate entity to administer the student assistance programs established under the Student Assistance Board and the Higher Education Assistance Authority, with policy advice from the Commission in several areas. A new law enacted in March 1999 consolidates these entities into the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, which will include one Commission representative among its members; the chair of the merged student aid policy board will serve as a member of the Commission.
The restructuring act requires the Commission and the Presidents’ Council to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the new structure and submit a report to the Governor and Legislature on or before July 1, 1999. As was done for the required interim assessment of restructuring (at the two-year mark), a Restructuring Assessment Committee was formed consisting of Commission members, presidents representing the four collegiate sectors, and Commission staff.
The Committee reviewed and summarized the activities and accomplishments of the five years since the new governance structure was established. In addition, the Committee did a survey to gather perceptions regarding the new structure. The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University assisted in questionnaire design and development, as well as data collection. Legislative leadership, Commission members, the Presidents’ Council, institutional governing boards, student assistance professionals, faculty governance and union leaders, institutional administrators, and student government leaders were surveyed. While the survey was not conclusive due to a relatively low response rate and a disproportionate number of returns from some groups, it did provide some interesting data to assist in the overall assessment (See Section IV).
The Committee’s assessment also benefited from input provided by over 150 participants in an all-day, invitational conference on restructuring. Governor Whitman delivered the keynote address, a state and a national panel discussed the implementation of the new structure, and break-out groups discussed specific areas identified by the survey respondents as needing improvement (See Section V).
II. THE SYSTEM
The restructuring act specifically requires the five-year assessment to include profiles for each public college and university. These data, most which are available from databases maintained by the Commission, are the same as the core indicators in the annual institutional accountability reports; a special survey collected the data that were not readily available. Appendix 4 provides a two-page profile of each of the 31 public colleges and universities.
In addition, the following aggregate data regarding New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities provide a general profile of the system for which the new governance structure was created.
Students: In fall 1998, New Jersey colleges and universities enrolled a total of 326,291 students, 183,337 full-time and 142,954 part-time. Undergraduates were 85% of the total, and New Jersey residents accounted for 92% of the undergraduates.
PROFILE OF ALL STUDENTS, FALL 1998
TOTAL ENROLLMENT By Sector
Student Assistance: New Jersey ranks second among all states in the amount of need-based student aid provided per full-time undergraduate student. In FY 1998, 57,313 undergraduate students received Tuition Aid Grants, of whom 13,472 also qualified for Educational Opportunity Fund grants. The state’s four merit-based scholarships provided aid to 10,858 students.
STATE STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS - UNDERGRADUATE PARTICIPATION
*This reflects the first cohort of students. A second cohort was added in FY 1999, roughly doubling the number of students served and the value of awards. It is anticipated that additional cohorts will be added in future years.
Undergraduate Student Profile: In the fall of 1998, minority students constituted 30 percent of all undergraduates enrolled in New Jersey public and independent institutions. Female students account for 57 percent of undergraduate enrollment. Sixty percent of undergraduate students are enrolled on a full-time basis.
FALL 1998 UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT PROFILE
Faculty: In fall 1998, New Jersey colleges and universities employed a total of 11,332 full-time faculty. Females constituted 37 percent of all faculty; minorities constituted 16 percent of the total. Tenured faculty accounted for 62 percent of the total. The institutions also employ adjunct faculty. With a total of 11,348 part-time faculty members in fall 1997, the statewide ratio of full-time to adjunct or part-time faculty was virtually 1:1.
PROFILE OF FULL-TIME FACULTY, FALL 1997
Programs: New Jersey colleges and universities currently offer over 2,900 degree programs in 232 different fields.
Accreditation: Forty-six New Jersey institutions are accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The other 10 institutions are accredited by appropriate specialized accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
III. SURVEY INFORMATION
In an effort to gauge the perceptions of New Jersey’s higher education community, the Restructuring Assessment Committee worked with the Center for Public Interest Polling of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University to develop a questionnaire to survey views on higher education restructuring in New Jersey. The questionnaire was sent to 475 selected participants, and 145, or 31 percent, responded.
The community college sector had the largest representation (40%) among respondents, followed by the independent colleges/universities, the state colleges/universities, and the public research universities.
Counting the category "other," there are 16 possible organizational affiliations that were listed in the questionnaire. These categories have been collapsed into six broader groups: Commission members, the financial aid community, the Presidents' Council, other institutional employees and student leaders, trustees, and "other" (mostly non-Commission state officials). It should be noted that multiple affiliations are possible. The largest group of respondents (42%) is other institutional employees and students. Respondents connected with student assistance are the second largest, followed by presidents, trustees, non-Commission state officials, and Commission members, in that order.
A detailed analysis of the survey and the annotated questionnaire indicating the percentage response to each item on the questionnaire can be found in Appendix 1. The Committee identified the following general themes from the survey responses.
General Attitudes and Perceptions
On the broadest summary question, about equal numbers of respondents—roughly two-fifths each—believe that the Higher Education Restructuring Act has been a positive change or that it has been a mixed change. Only one-tenth perceives a negative change, and even fewer have no opinion.
Assessing the degree of improvement in six areas, a majority of respondents see some or a great deal of improvement in innovation and creativity in dealing with higher education issues, as well as similar levels of improvement in institutional decision making, accountability of institutions and their boards of trustees, and coordination and collaboration among higher education institutions. By contrast, a majority see not much improvement, no improvement, or a decline in resources to support policy recommendations. With regard to fair and equitable systemwide policy development and decision making, no clear majority exists, and a high percentage of respondents have no opinion (16%).
Regarding collaboration and communication between the Commission and the Presidents' Council, 45% of the respondents rate it excellent or good, while 31% rate it only fair or poor. One reason for the lack of overall consensus is that 24% of the respondents have no opinion.
Perceptions Linked to Restructuring
The survey identifies 13 objectives of the restructuring act, and solicits perceptions of how well they have been achieved. In addition, the questionnaire lists nine responsibilities that are shared by the Commission, the Presidents' Council, and institutional boards of trustees, and asks respondents to indicate how well they think each entity is fulfilling them. Respondents were also asked to indicate if the ratings they gave were based on the changes in the structure of higher education.
An examination of the responses to these items provides an interesting pattern of assessments, based on the particular respondents’ perceptions. In order to organize the possible ratings, the committee devised a matrix with four possible combinations of ratings:
The responses for the three respective entities (Commission, Presidents’ Council, and boards of trustees) were pooled for each responsibility. The following matrix indicates where the majority of those who responded rated each of the objectives and responsibilities among the above four possible combinations. Note that respondents who indicated they had "no opinion" are excluded from the matrix, although they are considered in the rest of the narrative analysis.
Comparison with the Interim Survey
The Restructuring of New Jersey Higher Education: An Interim Report to the Governor and the New Jersey Legislature, which the Commission published in July of 1996, also contained a survey component. There are both similarities and differences between the two surveys. A key difference is that while the first survey sought to measure changes in attitudes and perceptions that had taken place since the time the restructuring was announced, the second survey is concerned with current attitudes. Restructuring had solid support in 1996, as it does now; sector differences that were found in 1998 were also present in 1996. However, one organizational group — institutional trustees — seems to have become more positive and more willing to express an opinion now than before. Also, another group — Commission members — seems to have become somewhat less positive (though they remain as positive as any of the groups except the non-Commission state officials).
IV. Key Accomplishments Under Restructuring
The Higher Education Restructuring Act of 1994 set high expectations for New Jersey’s new tripartite governance structure, and the survey identified a number of key areas perceived as excellent or good as a result of restructuring. However, the survey was intended to gauge perceptions of a broad constituency, and it did not address all of the one-time and ongoing responsibilities assigned to the Commission on Higher Education, the Presidents’ Council, and institutional governing boards. This section addresses some of the most significant goals achieved in the first five years under the new governance structure, largely as the result of the level of cooperation and collaboration that developed within the higher education system.
At the individual colleges and universities, reduced state regulation has enabled boards of trustees to focus on institutional goals and be more responsive to student and community needs. On a state level, the synergy that has developed among college and university presidents, and between presidents and the Commission and other stakeholders has resulted in many significant accomplishments that benefit students, institutions, and the state. The mechanism for collaboration between the Commission and the Presidents’ Council was not defined by the restructuring act and it has evolved over the years. In the past two years, the Commission’s Executive Committee and the officers of the Presidents’ Council’s Executive Board have forged a more productive working relationship. There is also frequent informal dialogue between the Commission’s executive director and the chair of the Presidents’ Council on a variety of issues, and each body’s regular monthly meetings provide an opportunity for representatives of the other to offer more formal input. In addition, both organizations have been represented on every major task force and committee formed since restructuring.
Much of the first year following restructuring was focused on completing statutorily required reports on funding and tuition, collaboration between higher education and K-12, student aid administration, and collective bargaining and civil service in the state college and university sector. These reports, submitted to the Governor and Legislature, have informed ongoing policy and planning efforts, and several of the specific recommendations have been successfully implemented.
The restructuring act also required the development of a master plan for higher education. With significant involvement from the Presidents’ Council and the rest of the higher education community, the Commission adopted Looking to the New Millennium: New Jersey’s Plan for Higher Education in October 1996. The first long-range plan since 1981 established a vision for New Jersey higher education (see Appendix 2) and made recommendations to guide colleges and universities, and the state, in achieving that vision.
The first update of the long-range plan, released for public comment in March 1999, includes a status report on the original recommendations, as well as new recommendations intended to define a strategic course by which New Jersey’s system of colleges and universities will become among the world’s best. The major recommendations that have been implemented from the original plan are:
In addition to these important outcomes from the long-range plan, the Commission, Presidents’ Council, and institutional boards have addressed a number of important ongoing goals, which include:
A full list of the major activities implemented since the enactment of the Higher Education Restructuring Act is included as Appendix 3.
V. Conference on Higher Education Restructuring
An important aspect of the five-year assessment of restructuring was a daylong conference that provided a unique opportunity for New Jersey’s higher education community to focus on both the improvements fostered by the new governance structure and the challenges that lie ahead. On January 22, 1999, over 150 institutional leaders, trustees, faculty and union representatives, students, Commission members, legislators, and others gathered at Rider University to hear presentations and participate in discussions about higher education restructuring in New Jersey.
Governor Christine Todd Whitman shared her views on restructuring and her vision for New Jersey higher education. A panel of legislators and others instrumental in the passage of the Higher Education Restructuring Act discussed their perceptions about restructuring and the challenges higher education faces in the future. In addition, a panel of higher education policy experts from throughout the country placed New Jersey’s governance reform in a national context and also discussed how institutions and the state might build upon the early successes of restructuring.
Following the presentations, participants broke into small groups to discuss the specific aspects of restructuring that received less-positive ratings in the survey.
Key themes from presentations and panels
Governor Whitman’s Keynote Address
While the Governor believes it may be too soon to judge whether restructuring has been successful, she noted that it has improved coordination and collaboration within the higher education system and made it more responsive to students, the business community, and the state. She indicated that presidents are working together in an unprecedented way, and the increased autonomy has unleashed institutional creativity, while maintaining the state’s commitment to quality, access, and affordability. She said the higher level of autonomy is accompanied by accountability, such as the state’s new performance funding initiative.
Panel on the Higher Education Restructuring Act
The panelists agreed that increasing trustees’ responsibility for institutional vision, quality, and accountability is desirable and appropriate, and that more focus is needed on how trustees fulfill their important role. The legislators agreed that trustees, as well as college and university presidents, can be very effective advocates for their institutions and the system as a whole. Panelists also noted that colleges and universities must respond to the public agenda and play a role in addressing critical state needs and social issues. While New Jersey is seen as a national leader in need-based student aid, legislators see a need to provide more financial assistance to middle-class residents.
Panel of National Experts
The panel of national experts praised what has been accomplished in New Jersey under the new governance structure, although they cautioned against focusing on the governance structure rather than statewide needs and long-term goals. They also noted that many of the issues identified as needing improvement reflect broad national trends, not problems with New Jersey’s new governance structure. Although survey respondents related issues such as budget, master planning, and coordination of programs to restructuring, such issues pose challenges for all states, regardless of their governance structure. The panel also stressed that to be most effective, the higher education community must approach advocacy with clear common goals and a strong central voice.
Key themes from breakout discussion groups
Despite a closer working relationship between the Commission and Presidents’ Council in areas related to budget development and advocacy, some participants still expressed concerns that the governance structure lacks a central advocate for higher education. There was general agreement that both the Commission and Presidents’ Council should play a stronger and more visible role as advocates for higher education. The two entities should work together to define roles and expectations and develop a plan and agenda for advocacy. Some felt the absence of cabinet-level status for the Commission is detrimental to advocacy efforts. More trustee involvement in advocacy is also needed. Participants agreed that New Jersey should do more to raise public awareness about the benefits/importance of higher education and to market its higher education system. Expanding and strengthening relationships with business and industry are an important part of this effort.
Budget Development Process
As noted above, participants expressed concern that while FY 2000 was an improvement over past years, the budget development process had often lacked coordination, and as a result, was not as effective as possible. They stressed the need for the Commission and Presidents’ Council to coordinate efforts and speak with one voice, being proactive early in the process rather than reactive. They agreed that the state must provide adequate, consistent, predictable support for base budgets, and should consider multi-year budgeting, or at least multi-year budget planning.
The breakout groups recommended that the Commission increase its efforts to communicate the substance of the long-range plan and its relevance to various constituencies. Some expressed dissatisfaction with the plan itself. Others felt the plan and updates should be well circulated and referred to frequently, as a foundation upon which to base policy decisions. Institutions should seek to align their plans with the state plan. While participants believe that restructuring has allowed for broader input in statewide planning, there is not equal involvement among all institutional constituents. They said trustees should be more involved in updating the long-range plan.
Coordination of Academic Programming
Breakout group participants had differing opinions regarding coordination of academic programming. Some saw improvement and believe that the process is working; they believe that the Commission’s coordination role is appropriate and the system of checks and balances is sufficient. One group raised questions about whether there is a need to monitor/control program quality. It was suggested that the long-range plan should provide more context within which academic program decisions are made. One group suggested that the requirements for new program documentation should be reviewed and that licensure regulations also should be reviewed periodically. Others felt a need to define "unduly costly and unduly duplicative." One group felt that academic programming through distance learning may pose problems related to quality and systemwide efficiency in the future.
Statewide Coordination of Higher Education
Participants agreed that the Commission should play a role in identifying statewide issues and the "public interest," as well as in spurring and assessing higher education’s responsiveness. However, some expressed concern that statewide coordination must be balanced with sensitivity to institutional mission, as well as the need for institutional flexibility. Areas identified as needing additional statewide focus include: transfer and articulation, outmigration/inmigration, collaboration with K-12, and outcomes assessments and criteria.
Another issue raised by the breakout groups was whether the Presidents’ Council can maintain strong leadership in the future given its heavy reliance on volunteerism, and the need for a common orientation/understanding of all presidents on issues related to restructuring and the vision for higher education. Another concern was the political nature of the trustee appointment process, especially in light of the trustees’ expanded role.
VI. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
When the Higher Education Restructuring Act was enacted in 1994, people in New Jersey and across the nation questioned whether the new structure could work. Could college and university presidents move beyond the needs of their individual institutions to address statewide issues? Could a body of lay members with little or no background in higher education successfully guide state coordination and planning? Or, absent a cabinet-level representative and an extensive higher education bureaucracy, would the state ultimately abandon its commitment to access and affordability?
While the assessment of the new governance structure and its component entities points to some operational areas that need attention, the experience of the past five years has demonstrated clearly that the tripartite structure is workable and desirable. Since July 1994, New Jersey’s higher education system has both labored and prospered under the new governance structure. The tripartite arrangement spurred institutional autonomy, collaboration, and innovation within a coordinated higher education system. Considerable progress has been made toward system and state goals due to significant efforts on the part of presidents, trustees, the Commission, and others in the higher education community.
With a profound commitment to make the new governance structure successful, the Commission and Presidents’ Council embraced their respective and joint responsibilities and undertook them energetically. As a result, they made concerted efforts during the first two years to increase systemwide collaboration and communication, to complete statutorily required studies and reports, and to establish required processes and regulations. There was a synergy that drove those efforts, and the resulting policy recommendations, processes, and procedures established the framework for the many accomplishments over the past five years.
While the various higher education entities embraced their respective and joint responsibilities immediately, the relationships between those entities have evolved and improved over time. For example, the recently increased level of communication between the Commission’s Executive Committee and the officers of the Presidents’ Council has greatly improved budget development and advocacy efforts.
Recommendations: Frequent and stronger lines of communication between the two bodies, as well as with boards of trustees, will further enhance the ability of the structure to meet system and state needs.
Similarly, communication and collaboration among the institutions and sectors have increased substantially, but will require additional attention. All relationships need ongoing nurturing and development, and this will be particularly necessary, both among the institutions and among the coordinating entities, to ensure the continued success of this governance structure.
Given the focus on institutional autonomy in the new structure, there is a natural tension between campus interests and the interests of the system and the state. While individual institutions rightfully embraced the opportunity to move forward expeditiously, without the burden of excessive regulatory oversight, the coordinating entities attempted to guide institutional plans and policy with statewide planning and initiatives.
Recommendation: As the system matures, it is essential for institutions to help establish and maintain an ongoing balance between the interests of individual institutions and broader statewide needs and goals.
The Commission on Higher Education is also faced with the need to balance institutional and statewide interests. As the coordinating agency for higher education, the Commission engages in planning, policy development, research, and advocacy to meet higher education and statewide goals established by the restructuring act and through subsequent policy and law. The restructuring act specifically created the position of executive director of the Commission as a non-cabinet position appointed by the Commission rather than the Governor, as the most appropriate means to deal with the inherent tension between the needs of the institutions and the state.
The non-cabinet status of the executive director has been questioned by some, suggesting that higher education does not have a sufficiently strong voice and level of importance within the administration. Others believe that higher education has maintained a strong working relationship with the Governor and her staff as evidenced by the Governor’s implementation of several Commission recommendations and her frequent inclusion of the executive director at cabinet meetings and affairs. In fact, the lines of communication between the Commission and the Governor’s office, as well as with the Treasurer, are open and positive.
Recommendation: The Commission should continuously monitor the relationship with the administration to ensure that good communication and a strong working relationship with the Governor’s office, the Treasurer, and essential staff are maintained over time and with future administrations.
There are some responsibilities within the structure that require attention, and in some cases the draft long-range plan update addresses them. One of those concerns is the adequacy of the long-range plan itself. While significant strides have been made in implementation of initiatives identified in the long-range plan for higher education, there is a need to move the plan beyond the identification of individual recommendations and develop a strategic course to achieve the plan’s vision. The draft long-range plan update addresses that need, using the existing plan as a framework and defining the course to make New Jersey higher education competitive with the best in the world. The plan’s structural design for regular update and review will provide appropriate means to monitor progress and revise the course if necessary.
In another area, the assessment of the structure confirmed the importance of the role of trustees in overseeing institutional matters and fulfilling the missions of their colleges and universities, as well as in striving to meet statewide goals in cooperation with other institutions and the coordinating entities. Clearly, trustees are volunteers serving individual institutions, and while they are not necessarily statewide spokespersons for higher education, their advocacy for their own institutions plays a critical role in fostering an understanding of the overall value of the investment in higher education and the system as a whole.
Recommendations: The role of trustees as a critical part of the tripartite structure should be more clearly defined and emphasized, particularly in regard to advocacy. The Commission should establish a task force that includes trustees to better define the role trustees should play and recommend mechanisms for involving them in statewide policy and planning efforts. At the same time, the trustee appointment process should be improved in regard to ensuring the timely appointment of highly qualified individuals, independent of political considerations.
The area of advocacy also needs attention in regard to establishing a strong central voice for higher education. The Commission should step forward to fill this gap and strengthen its role as an advocate for higher education, as recommended in the draft long-range plan update. The Commission should develop and initiate strategies to raise the level of awareness of higher education’s societal and economic contributions and strengthen overall support for higher education.
A last suggestion to enhance operations within the governance structure concerns the statewide coordination of new programs and mission expansion. While the review process for new programs has fostered flexibility and the more timely delivery of new programs, the issue of lack of coordination of academic programs statewide was identified in a 1998 survey and at the January 1999 Restructuring Assessment Conference as an area in need of improvement.
Recommendation: The long-range plan update appropriately recommends that the Presidents’ Council should consider developing qualitative criteria to guide boards of trustees and institutions under their authority when proposing new programs. The Presidents’ Council should also revisit the new program review process with the intention of establishing rigorous and consistent criteria that will be used to determine whether proposed programs are "unduly duplicative" or "unduly expensive." The Commission should similarly review both its process and criteria for petitions to exceed or change institutional missions.
As a final comment, while the restructuring assessment confirms the validity of the current higher education governance structure, it is the actions and relationships of those who operate within the structure that are critical to its success. The early commitment and synergy that resulted in significant accomplishments and collaboration under the new structure have lessened somewhat as the years passed. While there continues to be a strong commitment to the structure from some, the interest and devotion of time to making it work has subsided to a degree, as would be expected. The level of time and effort put forth initially by institutional presidents and volunteer Commission members was extraordinary in light of their respective responsibilities for running an institution or maintaining another full-time occupation. While the level of effort needed now to effectively operate the structure is less intense, there is a need for strong leadership and commitment, which is dependent largely on volunteerism; the governance structure requires it to be effective. It also requires a common understanding among presidents, trustees, and the Commission members on issues related to restructuring and the vision for higher education.
Recommendation: In light of this five-year juncture of the new structure, the reassessment of the structure’s effectiveness, the addition of several new institutional presidents, and the advent of a new executive director of the Commission, the higher education community should reenergize and recommit to making the most of this governance structure, recognizing its yet untapped potential.
Detailed Results of the Restructuring Survey
(The survey instrument, with the distributions of responses to each individual item, follows)
The Overall Distribution of Opinions
Specific opinions. Of the 13 objectives of the restructuring act, a majority of respondents rate the attainment of six as excellent or good. These positive responses are led by those referring to student access to higher education or to institutional flexibility in establishing new academic programs. In the remaining seven cases there is no consensus between excellent/good and only fair/poor. The mixed pattern is in part due to high percentages of respondents expressing no opinion; these percentages range from 11% on systemwide coordination of higher education to 53% on institutional legal representation.
On the nine responsibilities of the Commission/Presidents' Council/trustees, there is a moderate tendency for ratings of these entities to move in a roughly parallel fashion. All of the entities are perceived as doing well on timeliness in addressing issues and timeliness in making decisions, though there are more respondents with no opinion in the case of the trustees. Both the Commission and the Presidents' Council do fairly well on cooperation among the various higher education entities and on availability of information on higher education. None of the entities does particularly well on K-12/higher education communication and collaboration, the budget development process, progress toward statewide master planning, coordinated systemwide advocacy, or resource sharing among institutions. However, for all entities, moderate to large numbers of respondents have no opinion with regard to these issues.
In responding to the questions regarding the 13 objectives of the act, many left them blank; the numbers range from 17 to 76. Similarly, on the nine responsibilities of the Commission, there are numerous blank responses (37-60). On the responsibilities of the Presidents' Council, blanks range from 44 to 63. Finally, for trustees, the number of nonresponses is even higher (59-72).
The Perceived Role of Restructuring by Assessments of Conditions
There is no simple relationship between respondents' positive or negative ratings on specific issues and their inclination (or lack thereof) to attribute the perceived current situation to restructuring. The difficulty of generalizing here is partly attributable to the large numbers of respondents who do not express an opinion on the role of restructuring.
The most common pattern, characterizing seven of the 13 objectives of the Restructuring Act, is for the "extreme" ratings—"excellent" or "poor"—to be associated with a greater inclination to credit or blame restructuring. This pattern emerges for the areas of access and affordability, institutional accountability, and coordination/review of academic programming, among others. With regard to institutional program flexibility, there is a positive relationship between the favorability of the rating and the likelihood of viewing restructuring as the cause. In the case of student aid administration and trustee appointment, a negative relationship occurs: undesirable conditions are seen as having occurred because of restructuring, and desirable conditions are seen as having occurred despite restructuring. In three instances there is no pattern.
As far as the Commission's performance is concerned, in five instances the extreme ratings are associated with a greater tendency to cite restructuring; these include cooperation among the entities, budget development, availability of information, and systemwide advocacy. On four responsibilities there is no pattern linking ratings and restructuring. On the Presidents' Council's performance, in five instances extreme positions are linked with a higher probability of attributing the perceived current situation to restructuring; these include timeliness in addressing issues, timeliness in making decisions, cooperation among the entities, and availability of information. No pattern is evident on four responsibilities. Finally, regarding trustees, there are five instances in which the extreme ratings are associated with a greater tendency to cite restructuring; these include timeliness in addressing issues, budget development, and availability of information. On four responsibilities there is no pattern.
Opinions by Sector
Proportionally more respondents in the community college sector and the state college/university sector believe that the restructuring act has been a positive change than in the public research university sector or the independent sector.
The Community Colleges and the State Colleges/Universities
A majority of respondents in the community and state college/university sectors believe that there has been a great deal or some improvement in innovation and creativity in dealing with higher education issues. Both "a great deal" and "some" receive considerable endorsement.
The Public Research Universities and the Independent Colleges/Universities
A majority of respondents in the public research university and independent sectors believe that there has been "some" improvement in innovation and creativity, but none believe there has been "a great deal" of change. In all four sectors a majority believe that there has been a great deal or some improvement in institutional decision making. A majority of positive responses in the community college and state college/university sectors are "a great deal," and a majority in the public university and independent sectors are "some."
Opinions by sector do not always break down as described above. Other patterns appear as well; therefore there does not seem to be a pervasive polarization of opinions. All three public sectors are positive regarding improvement in the accountability of institutions and their boards of trustees; in contrast, the independent colleges and universities are not particularly positive about improvement in this area. The community colleges are by far the most positive sector with respect to resources to support policy recommendations. The community colleges, public research universities, and independent colleges and universities are positive about coordination and collaboration among higher education institutions, while the state college/university respondents are divided on this issue. Finally, the community colleges and public research universities are positive about fair and equitable systemwide policy development and decision making, while the other sectors are considerably less so.
With respect to collaboration and communication between the Commission and the Presidents' Council, the community colleges are somewhat more positive than the other sectors.
Opinions by Organizational Affiliation
On the most general item concerning the restructuring act, all of the groups except for financial aid have a majority or near-majority who regard the act as a positive change. Financial aid is also the only group with a non-trivial percentage who have no opinion (12%). State officials are the most positive.
A majority of those in each group believe that the implementation of the act has brought about some or a great deal of improvement in innovation and creativity in dealing with higher education issues, and also in institutional decision making.
Several items elicit positive responses from every group except the financial aid community, which is also the group that exhibits the greatest tendency to have no opinion. On other issues, the financial aid community is one of two groups to have a negative opinion.
Because of the financial aid community members' strong representation among the respondents, as well as their higher than average tendency to have no opinion, this group tends to account for a considerable share of all respondents with no opinion. For example, on a range of questionnaire items, financial aid accounts for roughly 35%-50% of the "no opinions."
When the financial aid community is divided into two subsets, EOF and other, there is a tendency for the non-EOF portion to be more likely to have no opinion. There is also a tendency for the EOF portion to be more likely to have only slightly positive—or mildly negative—opinions. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, EOF is more positive than the other subgroup about resources.
State officials. Non-Commission state officials are the most positive about restructuring on the issue that is phrased in the broadest terms. They also have a majority who see some or a great deal of improvement in resources to support policy recommendations.
Commission members. On the resource issue, Commission members are the least likely to see some or a great deal of improvement. All groups except for the Commission members and financial aid have a positive view regarding improvement in coordination and collaboration among higher education institutions.
Commission members do tend to be positive on most issues; but they are not the most positive of all the groups. A majority of Commission members view restructuring as a positive change, and rate collaboration/communication between the Commission and the Presidents' Council as excellent or good. Also, a majority see a great deal or some improvement in innovation/creativity, institutional decision making, institutional accountability, and equitable systemwide policies/decisions.
The Presidents' Council. Members of the Presidents' Council are neither the most positive nor the most negative group on any issue. Exactly half of the Council members regard restructuring as a positive change. Slightly over half rate collaboration/communication between the Commission and the Presidents' Council as excellent or good. Overwhelming majorities of presidents rate innovation/creativity and coordination/ collaboration among institutions as having improved a great deal or some. Improvement in institutional decision making, and institutional accountability also receive a solid majority the Presidents' Council support. The Council shares the Commission's restrained support for improvement in equitable systemwide policies/decisions, as well as its negative view of resources (though the Council is somewhat less negative).
Other institutional employees. The views of non-presidential employees parallel very closely those of their presidents.
Trustees. All groups except for financial aid and trustees have a majority who see some or a great deal of improvement regarding equitable systemwide policies/decisions. In most other respects the opinions of trustees do not stand out in either a positive or a negative direction. An exception is the issue of institutional decision making, where trustees are the most positive group. As a general rule, the trustees' opinions follow those of the Presidents' Council somewhat more closely than they do those of the Commission; however, these two options often do not diverge substantially.
New Jersey’s Vision for Higher Education
New Jersey’s system of higher education aspires to be among the best in the world, embracing excellence, access, and affordability. The quality of the state’s public and independent colleges and universities will serve as a magnet to attract both resident and nonresident students and highly qualified faculty. Institutions will model tolerance and civility, celebrating the diversity that creates rich learning environments. A major force in developing the full potential of New Jersey and its people, higher education will serve all residents who have the interest and potential to learn, regardless of their economic circumstances.
The state’s higher education system will develop and nurture the citizens and leaders of the future, preparing individuals for fulfilling lives, rewarding careers, and lifelong learning. Technology will strengthen the system and improve access, efficiency, and program effectiveness into the 21st century and beyond. Through teaching, research, and public service, colleges and universities will support the state’s public policy goals of economic growth, social stability, and enhanced quality of life. New Jersey will value and support its investment in higher education, and institutions will seek innovative, collaborative approaches to meet the challenges ahead, committed to serving a globally competitive society.
Higher Education Restructuring Act:
Summary of major Implementation Activities
The restructuring act required four major studies within the first year and an interim assessment of restructuring after two years.
The restructuring act required the development of a master plan. In October 1996, the Commission adopted the first statewide plan for higher education since 1981. The following recommendations have been implemented:
Flexibility and productivity study to address cumbersome regulations and statutes was adopted in November 1997.
A capacity study was conducted and the Commission adopted recommendations regarding the capacity of New Jersey higher education in March 1998.
A report on improvement of graduation/transfer rates for low-income or minority students was adopted in April 1997.
A report on incentive funding to promote urban revitalization in New Jersey was adopted in May 1997.
A report on higher education technology included recommendations regarding higher education technology and distance learning; the report was adopted in September 1997.
A joint Commission/State Employment and Training Commission literacy report on the need for and current availability of adult literacy services in New Jersey was adopted In March 1998.
The Educational Opportunity Fund Board adopted a five-year strategic plan in October 1997.
An update of the long-range plan is currently underway. The Commission is expected to adopt additional recommendations to help New Jersey achieve its vision for higher education in May 1999.
Licensure and related approvals by Commission on Higher Education
(Asbury Theological Seminary, LaSalle University, and St. John’s University)
(Beth Medrash Govoha, DeVry Institute, Katharine Gibbs School-Montclair, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, Rabbinical College of America, and Talmudical Academy)
(Philadelphia College of Bible – degree program and Syracuse University – courses for college credit in selected high schools)
(Jersey City State, Kean, Monmouth, Rowan, and William Paterson).
Changing/exceeding programmatic mission
(The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey)
(M.S.N., Felician College; Ed.D. in pedagogy, Montclair State University; D.Min. in metro-urban ministry, New Brunswick Theological Seminary; M.S. in educational technology and M.B.A., Ramapo College; Master of Business Studies and M.A. in instructional technology, Richard Stockton College; Ed.S. in counseling services and Ed.S. in school psychology, Rider University; Ed.D. in educational leadership, Rowan University; and B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology at DeVry Institute)
(Burlington County College and New Jersey Institute of Technology Mt. Laurel campus; University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Health Related Professions facility at Scotch Plains)
Transfer and Articulation
Adoption of regulations pursuant to statute
The Commission reviews and approves institutional requests for use of bond fund allocations (Higher Education Facilities Trust Fund, Equipment Leasing Fund, Jobs Education, and Competitiveness Fund, Higher Education Technology Infrastructure Fund).
The Commission and Presidents’ Council assist in developing capital initiatives, including the current proposal for $550 million in bond funds for four-year institutions.
The Commission undertook a comprehensive assessment of the three grant programs it administers and implemented all of the following recommendations for program improvement:
Special Needs Grant Program – assessment report adopted in June 1996. Actions include:
College Bound Grant Program (transferred from Department of Education) – assessment report adopted in September 1997. Comprehensive assessment was the first since program’s 1986 inception. Actions include:
Education of Language Minority Students Grant Program – assessment report adopted in October 1997. Actions include:
Examples of other coordination, cooperation and collaboration
The Business-Higher Education Seminar convened to discuss how colleges and universities and the corporate sector could work together for mutual benefit. The Commission provided information for Prosperity New Jersey’s Business Resource Center.
Joint campus of Burlington County College and NJIT in Mt. Laurel expands access to engineering/technology offerings in South Jersey.
Twenty-eight joint or cooperative programs approved, primarily in science, health, or technological fields, which are more costly than liberal arts programs.
College and University Profiles
The Higher Education Restructuring Act requires the 1999 comprehensive assessment of restructuring to include a summary of key data for each public institution of higher education. The specific data elements are prescribed by statute. Most of the required data are routinely compiled by the Commission on Higher Education through the IPEDS and SURE systems. Commission staff collected additional required information from the individual institutions to complete the profiles that follow.
All New Jersey public institutions are regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Therefore, this information is not included in each institution’s profile.
Senior Public Institutions
Profile of all students. For every institution except Thomas Edison State College, these numbers refer to fall 1998 enrollment. In the case of Edison, the numbers include all students who enrolled at any time during Fiscal Year 1998.
Undergraduate student profile. For every institution except the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, this table includes only undergraduates. In the case of UMDNJ, the numbers include all students, graduate/first-professional and undergraduate, because UMDNJ is the only public institution that has more graduate and first-professional students than undergraduates.
SAT scores. SAT scores are reported in the profiles for all senior public institutions except for Thomas Edison State College and the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. The reason for the exceptions is that all of Edison's entering undergraduates are transfers, as are the majority of UMDNJ's students. The Commission generally receives SAT scores only for first-time students.
Profile of full-time faculty. This indicator is omitted for Thomas Edison State College, which has no faculty of its own. The table for UMDNJ omits faculty who are paid by other institutions, such as Cooper Hospital.
Students. In the two student profile tables, non-degree-seeking students are included, while non-credit students are excluded. (Both of these statements are true for the senior publics as well, but the relative numbers involved are much smaller.)
Remediation. Institutional policies differ with regard to who needs to be tested and/or when, the testing instrument(s) used, and the cut-score(s) that are viewed as determining need for remediation. Therefore the profile data on remediation are not comparable across institutions and should not be aggregated.
New Jersey Commission on Higher Education
Offices located at 20 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608
Web site: www.state.nj.us/highereducation
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