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January 11, 2011

The Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, chaired by former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, recently issued its report calling for a significant increase in funding to the state’s higher education system through the sale of general obligation bonds and a capital investment program. The report cited statistics that show New Jersey as first in the country in terms of high school graduates immediately entering college but 49th in the nation in capacity for its own public high school graduates.

More than 80 percent of our high school graduates must find seats in private or out-of-state colleges, according to the report, so it's no wonder that the state ranks first in terms of net loss of high school graduates attending college. That puts New Jerseyans at a disadvantage in a number of ways. In a poor economy, many families turn to their local university systems as an affordable college option. Most states favor their own students in terms of acceptances, according to the report, creating added difficulties to the college application process. And, of course, there is a greater possibility of a brain drain.

The capacity situation is getting worse and is expected to worsen. Already, 92 percent of Rutgers undergraduates are from New Jersey, a far higher percentage than many other states. According to the report, New Jersey was third in the country in terms of an increase in full-time enrollment in the past five years. What’s more, the state is projected to increase its number of high school graduates 8.9 percent between 2005 and 2018, a faster rate of increase than the country as a whole, which was pegged at 7.9 percent.

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