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June 17, 2019

A multi-state settlement has been reached that will lead to $168 million in debt relief for more than 18,000 former students of ITT Tech. As part of that, 48 people in New Jersey will get settlements totaling $625,000.

The 48 obtained loans from an education lender known as Student CU Connect CUSO, LLC (CUSO) in order to attend ITT Tech — which declared bankruptcy in 2016 amid investigations by several states and following action by the U.S. Department of Education to restrict its access to federal student aid. As happened elsewhere, the New Jersey students were pressured into obtaining education loans through CUSO, a consortium of credit unions created solely for the purpose of offering loans to finance the tuition of ITT Tech students. Most of the students could not hope to repay the loans; some of them took out multiple loans. The settlement stops any attempt by CUSO to collect on those loans.

Pressure tactics used by ITT included pulling students out of class and threatening to expel them if they did not accept the loan terms. The default rate on the loans was extremely high (projected to exceed 90 percent) due to both the high cost of the loans and the lack of success ITT graduates experienced in landing jobs that paid enough to make repayment feasible.

The defaulted loans continue to affect students’ credit ratings and are typically not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Under the settlement CUSO, under the threat of litigation, has agreed to forego collection of the outstanding loans. CUSO will also cease doing business.

June 14, 2019

In the 12 months since a legal sports betting industry was launched in New Jersey, retail and online sportsbooks have generated nearly $3 billion in bets and nearly $200 million in revenue.

“We knew that sports betting in New Jersey would be successful, but it is fair to say that so far it has exceeded our expectations,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for “$3 billion in bets in 12 months is an impressive milestone by any measure, and in just a year, New Jersey is set up to become the nation’s largest legal sports betting market.”

Indeed, New Jersey appears ready to surpass Nevada in the “monthly handle” for the first time, given the Garden State’s “monthly handle” of $318.9 million in May. “…clearly the state is on its way to becoming the largest legal sports jurisdiction in the country,” Gouker said.

New Jersey sports bettors continue to favor online sports betting, which accounted for $263.6 million, or 82.6 percent, of May’s handle. The state’s retail sportsbooks made up the remainder.

June 13, 2019

It may sound counterintuitive, but as college tuition skyrockets and student loan-debt balloons, perhaps families with low incomes should be looking to send their kids to highly competitive, expensive private schools. In New Jersey, that means Princeton University.

According to a new report, Princeton is the fifth most affordable private school in the country for low-income students. Online tutoring platform HeyTutor analyzed price and financial aid data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and found what students in the $0-$30,000 and the $30,001-$48,000 income brackets would pay out-of-pocket for each school.

Princeton’s posted sticker price of $63,850 a year (for tuition, fees, room and board, etc.) may seem daunting, but the researchers found only about 40 percent of the 5,394 enrolled undergraduate students are paying full price. The average net price for students whose families make less than $30,000 a year comes down to $1,948 per annum. For those whose families make between $30,000 and $48,000 a year, that tuition price is closer to $1,771.

According to the Princeton admissions website, 82 percent of seniors graduated debt-free in 2017-2018.

June 12, 2019

Tax credits are a touchy subject in New Jersey these days, given a damning audit and Gov. Phil Murphy’s desire to reform and rein them in — added to reports about how South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross and companies in Camden associated with him benefited from the credits.

But there’s one set of tax incentives the governor is four-square behind — those in the New Jersey Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program (which he signed into law last year). There’s a tax credit of 30 percent of qualified film production expenses, with the potential for bonus credits. A film must spend at least 60 percent of its total budget through vendors authorized to do business in the state or spend more than $1 million in qualified expenses here to be eligible for the program.

The total in tax credits allocated in the first round of the program is $6.2 million. The green-lit projects include a biopic about Kathy DiFiore, who overcame domestic violence and homelessness to establish a shelter for women and pregnant teens. There’s also a story about star-crossed lovers in Atlantic City.

Somewhere, someone is feverishly writing a proposal for next year’s round of credits: Scene 1 — Star-crossed governor and South Jersey powerbroker…

June 11, 2019

New Jersey fared well in the annual analysis by Education Week, the national education news site, of how well it funds its public schools and how equitably it does so; the Garden State scored 89.3 out of 100.

Education Week’s “Quality Counts” report carries a lot of weight in the education community, and New Jersey continues to shine in both its funding of schools and the performance of its students. This financial grade amounts to a B+, bettered by only New York and Wyoming among states. The national average was 74.9, or a C.

June 10, 2019

On June 18, 174 pharmacies throughout New Jersey will distribute naloxone, the opioid reversal drug, anonymously and at no cost. No prescription will be needed; nor will an appointment be needed. It’s part of a state government initiative to combat the opioid crisis.

Both community pharmacies and chain pharmacies such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, ShopRite, and CVS are taking part.

One dose per person of naloxone will be distributed on a first come, first-served basis. Naloxone can reverse opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain. People who obtain naloxone on June 18 will also be given information regarding addiction treatment and recovery.

There were “more than 3,000 overdose deaths in New Jersey last year…” said New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. Last year, first responders in the state administered naloxone more than 16,000 times. The one-day distribution is part of a pilot program approved by the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy.

June 7, 2019

Does it surprise you that most New Jerseyans are happy? Forget the high cost of living, high property taxes, a juddering transit system and all the other daily strains. Apparently, more than 80 percent live contented lives. Sixty percent say they’re “pretty happy” and another 21 percent are in the “very happy” camp. The glad tidings are from a joint Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. On the dour side, 16 percent of respondents describe themselves as “not too happy” and a mere 3 percent admit to being “not happy at all.” The results, say the pollsters, are consistent with national polling.

While men and women in the Garden State are equally content, according to the poll, things like race, education, and income can significantly affect that contentment. White residents (23 percent “very,” 64 percent “pretty”) express greater happiness than either black residents (17 percent “very,” 62 percent “pretty”) or Hispanic residents (21 percent “very,” 50 percent “pretty”). Those in households making under $50,000 annually are about half as likely as those in households making $150,000 or more to say they are “very happy” (14 percent versus 31 percent). Three in 10 residents in the lowest income bracket say they are not happy (26 percent “not too happy,” 4 percent “not at all”), compared to less than one in five making between $50,000 and $100,000 and about one in ten making $100,000 or more.

“Happiness means different things to different people. But when the cost of living keeps going up, it’s not a surprise to see happiness appear elusive to those who are likely struggling the most to afford the basics,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government at Fairleigh Dickinson University and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. “Even if money can’t directly buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

June 6, 2019

This year, a record 59 women (38 Democrats, 21 Republicans) will compete in November’s general election for Assembly seats. In the 2019 election cycle, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, 63 women (41 Democrats, 22 Republicans) filed as primary candidates for state Assembly seats. The New Jersey State Senate does not have elections in this cycle.

Of the 59 women who will be on the ballot in November, 25 (20 Democrats, five Republicans) are incumbents; 27 (12 Democrats, 15 Republicans) are running as challengers; seven (six Democrats, one Republican) are running for open seats.

June 5, 2019

Donald Trump’s presidency has been the inspiration — and agitation — behind many candidates running for office these past three years but new data shows it also has influenced citizens not seeking careers in politics. Nearly one in three New Jersey adults — especially Democrats and women — maintain they are more civically engaged now than before President Trump’s election, according to a new Stockton University poll. The poll categorizes “civically engaged” as doing things like volunteering for a political campaign, donating to a candidate or political cause, attending a protest, or writing a letter to an elected official.

One in four (24 percent) of poll respondents who said they are more active today cited opposition to Trump and the Republican Party as motivating factors, while 5 percent said they have been motivated by support for the president and the GOP.

June 4, 2019

National legislation was introduced last month by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to increase the federal minimum age from 18 to 21 for the purchase or use of tobacco products. So Ballotpedia, the nonpartisan online political encyclopedia, decided it was a good time to look at tobacco laws at the state level. What it found was that New Jersey has a singular history on tobacco regulation and in fact was ahead of the curve on the issue of age restrictions. It passed the first law in the United States restricting the sale of tobacco to those age 16 or older in — wait for it — 1883. Other states followed and by 1920, 46 states had implemented an age limit for tobacco sales.

The minimum age ticked up over time in most states. It finally went to 21 in New Jersey in 2017 when then Gov. Chris Christie signed a law putting that age restriction on the sale of all tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

It seems almost quaint nowadays to worry about the smoking of regular cigarettes by youngsters given the “epidemic” of vaping among teenagers and the big push being made at both federal and state levels to curb it. But plenty of young people are still puffing on old-fashioned smokes — about 5 million middle and high schoolers were tobacco users in 2018, according to federal data.

June 3, 2019

It appears the further the Great Recession recedes in the rear-view mirror, the more credit card debt that Americans have been taking on. Total credit card debt in the U.S. has increased by 29 percent over the past five years, reaching $807 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to Experian, the credit card reporting and marketing company. In the past year alone, it has increased by 6 percent.

The first-quarter data from Experian shows that New Jersey had the second-highest credit card debt among all states (and the District of Columbia) at $6,881. Only Alaskans were deeper in the red on their plastic ($7,726). The others in the top five were Connecticut ($6,876), the District of Columbia ($6,782) and Virginia ($6,773). The states with the lowest credit card debt were Iowa ($4,622), Wisconsin ($4,810), Kentucky ($5,017), South Dakota ($5,023) and Idaho ($5,027).

Just over 60 percent of Americans had a credit card in 2019; the average balance was $6,028 and the average number of credit cards per person was four.

May 31, 2019

You would never know from one of the latest releases to emanate from Gov. Phil Murphy’s press office that things are tense between the governor and Democratic legislative leaders; so tense that some commentators suggest any meaningful progress on the governor’s agenda is questionable, absent some improbable kumbaya. The tone from the governor’s quarters is undaunted.

The press release marks the governor’s 500th day in office and trumpets his accomplishments, not least that he has signed close to 300 bills into law “in partnership with the Legislature,” more than any governor at this point in their first term since Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Moreover, Murphy announced that his administration “has fulfilled or is meaningfully making strides on 47 out of 52” core campaign commitments to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey.

The highlights of the first 500 days listed in the press release are: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; enacting paid sick leave for all workers; requiring equal pay for equal work; investing in NJ TRANSIT; making New Jersey a leader in gun safety; moving New Jersey towards clean energy; expanding pre-K; putting New Jersey on a pathway to fully funding public schools; providing tuition-free community college; and restoring funding to Planned Parenthood.

May 30, 2019

There is an ongoing campaign in New Jersey — and a parallel legislative effort — to allow undocumented immigrants in the state to drive legally. Central to the argument is that, as well as making life easier for undocumented immigrants, it would make the roads safer for everybody.

An economic case for allowing undocumented immigrants to get licenses has also been put forward and New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left leaning think tank, underlines that case in a new report. Written by policy analyst Erika J. Nava, the report suggests that, if implemented, extending driver’s licenses to the undocumented would generate $21 million in the first three years in revenue from permit, title, and license fees. According to the report, “Once fully implemented, new drivers will generate $90 million annually from registration fees, the gas tax, and the sales tax on purchases made at gas stations and motor vehicle and auto parts retailers.”

New Jersey is home to almost half a million undocumented residents (484,000), accounting for 5.4 percent of the state’s total population. Of those, 91.5 percent are of driving age (16 and older).

May 29, 2019

New Jersey has made significant progress in maternity care in the past two years. At the same time, a new report has found that only eight hospitals in the Garden State fully meet three key measures of care — just one in six of the 49 hospitals surveyed in New Jersey.

The 2019 Maternity Care Report by The Leapfrog Group — which examined in-depth how participating hospitals perform on best practices for cesarean sections, early elective delivery, and episiotomy rates — found that in New Jersey the rates of early elective deliveries dropped from 3.11 percent in 2016 to less than one percent in 2018; the rates for episiotomies dropped from 13.08 percent in 2016 to 10.17 in 2018; and cesarean rates ticked down from 28.25 percent in 2016 to 27.84 percent in 2018, while the national rate is 26.1 percent. (The report is based on the results of the 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Survey.)

But only the following New Jersey hospitals were found to fully meet Leapfrog’s maternity-care standards for all three of the key measures. They are: Cooper University Hospital; Inspira Medical Center Elmer; Inspira Medical Center Vineland; Jefferson Washington Township Hospital; RWJ Barnabas Health Monmouth Medical Center; Trinitas Regional Medical Center; University Hospital; and Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

The Leapfrog Group is a national watchdog organization focused on healthcare safety and quality. Its new report also concluded that, nationwide, only 20 percent of hospitals fully meet Leapfrog standards on all three critical maternity measures.

Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, the Regional Leader for Leapfrog, said new laws in New Jersey are expected to prompt more hospitals to achieve better results. One new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy prevents payment for early elective deliveries — births induced prior to 39 weeks for no medical reason — by the state’s Medicaid program and the State Health Benefits Program. Another new law creates a program in Medicaid, known as an Episode of Care, that creates incentives to deliver higher quality and more holistic care for women during and after pregnancy.

May 28, 2019

The number of children in New Jersey who participated in federal summer meals programs on an average day last July was 103,194, a 38 percent increase since July, 2015, a new report has found. At the same time, federal meal reimbursement rose 71 percent, to $12.7 million. Meals were provided at 1,357 sites throughout the state, according to the report.

Despite this progress, the national Food Research & Action Center recommends that states reach 40 percent of low-income children who eat lunch at school, compared to New Jersey's 26 percent participation rate.

Last year, New Jersey passed a law that requires any school district with at least half of its students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. Districts could request a waiver for this summer. Of the 127 districts affected by the mandate, 104 requested waivers. All but four were granted. By 2020, all districts affected by the law must participate.

“We expect to see even greater growth in 2020 as this new law takes hold and expands summer meals to children across New Jersey,” said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey.

May 24, 2019

Hibernation may be a sound option this weekend because it’s certainly going to be busy on New Jersey’s roads, at its airports, bus and train stations, ship terminals and anywhere people can get mobile. According to the American Automobile Association, (which has been monitoring our Memorial Day movements since the year 2000) just over 1 million New Jerseyans will be kicking off the summer travel season by taking a getaway this weekend.

Just like most Americans, Garden Staters with a yen to get going will do so in their cars: AAA says that 942,395 New Jerseyans (90.2 percent of the state’s travelers this weekend) will travel by automobile; brace yourselves for those turnpike rest stops, people! Another 72,880 (7 percent) will travel by plane; the rest (28,942, or 2.8 percent) will get to where they’re going by train, bus, ship, or — intriguingly — some “other mode” of transport.

The AAA, in collaboration with the transportation analytics company INRIX has taken some of the guesswork out of what’s in store for motorists. Apparently, “travel delays on major roads could be more than three [times] longer than normal during evening commutes.” And the answer to that is? See previous note on hibernation.

May 23, 2019

New Jersey’s decision to expand Medicaid led to a sharp decline in the rate of uninsured women in the 18 to 44 age group between 2013 and 2017. The rate went down 8.1 percent between 2013 (19.7 percent) and 2017 (11.6 percent), according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

That improvement had significant upsides, the report pointed out, not least in reducing rates of maternal death and infant mortality and improving the potential for optimal birth outcomes that can increase the promise of a healthy childhood. It found, in general, that states that expanded Medicaid saw a 50 percent greater reduction in infant mortality, compared to non-expansion states.

New Jersey has a long way to go in improving infant mortality rates. The state has the second largest disparity in the nation in black-white infant mortality rates, with the rate for black infants three times higher than for white infants, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

May 22, 2019

A campaign to enhance summer road safety in New Jersey was launched yesterday; the 101 Days of Summer campaign will run from the forthcoming Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

The period between those two weekends is considered the busiest and most dangerous travel time of the year in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that the higher volume of holiday travelers — including a significant number of drivers who are alcohol-impaired — causes nearly twice the number of automotive deaths during the summer months as during the rest of the year combined.

In that key driving season, fatal crashes, alcohol-related crashes, and young-driver crashes all spike in New Jersey. During that period in 2017, 137 motor vehicle occupants, 48 pedestrians, and five bicyclists died in crashes on New Jersey’s roadways — more than a third of the total lives lost that year.

There will be stepped-up enforcement on roads and highways in the Garden State during the 101 days. In addition to regular and supplemental patrols, police will be operating sobriety checkpoints and “Drunk Driver Mobile Patrols,” participating in the “Click It or Ticket” national seat-belt enforcement campaign, and conducting partnerships and traffic safety details with other law enforcement and traffic safety agencies.

May 21, 2019

According to Preservation New Jersey’s annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in the Garden State, the top berth this year is occupied by East Point Lighthouse.

The lighthouse, located in Maurice River Township in Cumberland County, was built in 1849 and is the second-oldest lighthouse in the state. While it underwent a full restoration just two years ago with state and federal funds, East Point sits on an outcropping where the Maurice River enters the Delaware Bay. The mouth of the river and the adjacent shore are rapidly eroding, and tidal waters now threaten the structure. The stewards of the lighthouse are left with sandbag brigades in a futile attempt to hold back tidal waters and storm surge.

Unfortunately, East Point is a perfect candidate for the endangered list, which spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archaeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.

May 20, 2019

In just three hours last week, volunteers (1,700) at dozens of sites (46) in the upper Raritan River Watershed removed a mountain of trash and recyclables (18 tons) from almost 80 miles of river, stream and lakefront. They took part in the Raritan Headwaters Association’s annual Stream Cleanup on Monday, April 13. And it was the “best year yet,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, executive director of Raritan Headwaters.

As admirable as this and similar efforts are, the catalog of their achievements can make for depressing reading. But here goes: The volunteers collected 9,133 plastic bottles, 3,039 plastic bags and 53 car and truck tires.

A recent pilot study by Raritan Headwaters found microplastics the size of poppy seeds or smaller, at several sites. A large percentage of the microplastics in this study originated as larger plastic items such as bags, wraps, water bottles and other single-use plastics.

“The Raritan River is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million New Jersey homes and businesses. Every piece of trash and litter we pick up helps keep that water clean and safe,” said Ehrenclou.

Cleanup coordinator Jeff Geist said they also hauled in everything from a mannequin, a massage table, several televisions, bicycles, a rusted meat grinder, a PlayStation console, a couch and, what do you know, even a kitchen sink.

May 17, 2019

Employment rose in New Jersey last month, with 11,800 jobs added, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; the April job gains were across most sectors. The state’s unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage points over the month to 3.9 percent. (The national unemployment rate in April was 3.6 percent.)

Total nonfarm wage and salary employment in the Garden State came to a seasonally adjusted 4,204,300. That represented a gain of 56,300 jobs from April 2018.

The April employment gains were in professional and business services (+4,500), leisure and hospitality (+4,100), education and health services (+1,800), other services (+1,500), manufacturing (+1,100), trade, transportation and utilities (+500), and the information industry (+200). Job losses were recorded in financial activities (-2,300) and construction (-400). Public sector employment was higher by 900 over the month, with small gains at the state (+600) and local (+400) levels.

May 16, 2019

With the annual “Click It or Ticket” seat-belt enforcement campaign starting on Monday, we can expect New Jersey police officers to be out in force checking that we’ve buckled up.

Experts say wearing a seat belt reduces a vehicle occupant’s risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and critical injury by 50 percent. And crash statistics show that from 2013 through 2017, seat-belt use saved more than 69,000 lives nationally, more than 1,000 of them in New Jersey. (The state’s primary seat-belt law requires all motorists and passengers in the front seat, including passengers under the age of 18, to wear a seat belt or be securely buckled in a car seat, or face a $46 fine.)

New Jersey drivers and their front-seat passengers are among the best in the nation for wearing their seat belts, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2018, they observed the lifesaving law to buckle up at a rate of 94.5 percent, well above the national average of 89.6 percent.

But here’s the kicker: Only 39 percent of New Jersey adults riding in rear seats used seat belts and “…this is a concern,” said Eric Heitmann, director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “This year, our Click It or Ticket campaign will promote seat belt usage in all seating positions in the vehicle, both front AND rear... History has shown us that when it comes to seatbelt usage, habits can be changed over time. Buckling up in the back seat is an important habit that will save lives.” (It’s a secondary offense for adults over the age of 18 to ride unbuckled in the back seat of a vehicle.)

During last year’s Click It or Ticket mobilization, police in New Jersey issued 19,659 seat-belt citations, up from 17,792 issued during the 2017 campaign. In addition, they wrote 534 citations for issues with child restraint and 4,437 speeding citations. They also made 661 DWI arrests.

May 15, 2019

The dogs in the street have been howling for a long time that the Northeast Corridor, so vital to the region’s economy and vitality, isn’t fit for 21st century needs. Yesterday, Gov. Phil Murphy trumpeted a joint investment by Amtrak and NJ Transit in the corridor, to the tune of $31 million. That represents a fraction of what ultimately must be spent on upgrades, according to various estimates, but at least it’s something. A press release from the governor’s office noted that the work, which will encompass projects from the northern end of the state as far south as Trenton, will “lead to improved conditions for travelers.”

The money will be spent on infrastructure improvements at Newark Penn Station, where the main focus will be the replacement of old wooden ties with concrete ties; replacement of a timber deck on the Portal Bridge, thus improving “current bridge conditions until a new Portal North Bridge is constructed”; upgrading switch equipment in Trenton, as well as catenary upgrades in New Brunswick, Monmouth Junction/South Brunswick, West Windsor and Trenton.

Meanwhile, the potentially devastating consequences to the region of the stalled Hudson River rail-tunnel replacement and new Portal Bridge do not yet seem to have moved President Donald Trump or federal transportation officials to pony up funds to get those projects back on track.

May 14, 2019

Eight in ten New Jerseyans say they know someone who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Sixty-eight percent know an ASD-diagnosed child outside their family, 48 percent know an ASD-diagnosed adult outside their family, 31 percent have a child family member with ASD, and 18 percent have an adult family member. Despite these connections, few interact regularly with people who have autism. This is according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which was conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence at Rutgers University.

The poll found a lack of understanding of autism, with most New Jerseyans viewing autism as a behavioral problem, and far fewer as a nervous-system disorder. Six in ten (62 percent) had seen or heard ASD referred to as a behavioral problem; almost as many (55 percent) believed that a child with autism does not have the ability to control his or her behavior.

“The American Psychiatric Association has already included sensory issues … as part of the criteria for diagnosing Autism, yet the public still perceives Autism as a behavioral problem or mental illness more than they do a disorder of the nervous system,” said Elizabeth Torres, associate professor of Psychology and director of the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence. “This misperception of what Autism is and is not is especially detrimental to treating it in schools. Without neurologists on hand, teachers and aides may not know how to cope with the somatic and sensory-motor issues that we have measured in research settings.”

May 13, 2019

Never mind the Scarlet Knights; for more and more New Jerseyans, the team to root for is Clemson University’s Tigers, as the Garden State sends increasing numbers of undergraduates to the South Carolina institution. Along with South Carolina itself, the top states sending students to Clemson are its neighbors, Georgia and North Carolina. But in fourth place comes New Jersey which, according to the Greenville News, delivered more students to Clemson than “Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Michigan and Missouri combined in 2019.” Indeed, the News headlined its May 9 story on the influx, “Garden State South…”

In 2013, 430 New Jersey students opted for Clemson; this year, the number is 570, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Clemson isn’t the only South Carolina school to draw New Jerseyans; they’ve also been enrolling in greater numbers in the University of South Carolina.

Clemson director of admissions David Kuskowski said that among the reasons Garden State students give for selecting Clemson are to escape Northeastern winters and to get away from home but not too far away. Kuskowski also pointed out that other states don’t send as many students out of state for college as New Jersey does — because they have bigger scholarships and programs to keep students in-state.

May 10, 2019

Tourist visits to New Jersey reached a record-breaking (almost) 111 million in 2018. Gov. Phil Murphy, along with Secretary of State Tahesha Way, yesterday trumpeted that nice round number and the fact that it represented a 7.4 percent increase over 2017. (To be precise, the actual number of visitors was 110.8 million.)

Visitor spending supported 333,860 jobs here, according to a report just released by the Department of State’s Division of Travel and Tourism. When indirect and so-called induced jobs are factored in, the report said that tourism sustained more than 531,000 jobs, making the industry the seventh-largest employer in the Garden State. In fact, nearly 10 percent of New Jersey’s jobs are supported by tourism. (The report defines indirect jobs as those created by the purchase of goods and services, and induced jobs as those created when wages generated either directly or indirectly by tourism are spent in the local economy.)

Can we top the 111 million? Apparently, state officials mean to; they’re looking to draw 150 million visitors here by 2023. Let’s hope they all won’t be driving on the turnpike or the parkway at rush hour.

May 9, 2019

Living alone can be unnerving, with good reason. But folks flying solo in New Jersey can be a bit less edgy: The Garden State has been ranked the safest for living alone by ASecureLife, a website that’s been researching and reviewing the security industry since 2008.

Still, New Jersey’s top score doesn’t mean throwing caution to the winds. People who live alone are more likely to be burglarized than folks who share their homes with family or friends. The risk increases for people who work days, leaving houses and apartments empty — something burglars are sure to notice when they case a neighborhood.

ASecureLife suggests taking some commonsense precautions: Get a dog (a financial and emotional commitment); install a home security system; upgrade door and window locks; get to know your neighbors. Having someone who can check in on your house if you’re away is a great security measure.

So what’s the most dangerous state for living alone? Alaska.

May 8, 2019

A decline in New Jersey’s attractiveness to young adults as a place to live, work and study is continuing, despite attempts to stem the tide. In an update to an earlier study, an education-focused task force of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association estimated that New Jersey was home to 205,824 fewer people between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2017 than in 2007.

That’s a decline of an additional 20,000-plus young residents over the original estimate, which focused on migration trends during the period from 2007 to 2016.

“Outmigration to this extent robs New Jersey of its future workforce, squanders taxpayers’ investment in one of the finest and most expensive K-12 educations in the country, and threatens the state’s reputation for a highly educated workforce,” said NJBIA president and CEO Michele Siekerka.

The outflow trend is most pronounced among college-age adults, and the task force has recommended that government help young people address high college costs and build the skills that are most in demand by employers.

“This update re-emphasizes the challenge to New Jersey’s higher education establishment and to the state as a whole,” said Siekerka said. “Where will New Jersey’s future workforce come from?”

The group’s initial report, titled The Education Equation: Strategies for Retaining and Attracting New Jersey’s Future Workforce, was originally released last year with 13 recommendations to stem outmigration by matching education to private-sector jobs. The update, by the group’s Postsecondary Education Task Force, was issued this week.

May 7, 2019

As New Jersey’s cannabis legalization talks continue behind closed doors — and some speculate they may fall apart — people in the Garden State are still lighting up joints. According to federal government estimates, 22.2 million Americans have used marijuana in the past month. And depending on where you live and buy, the cost can be considerable.

The Oxford Treatment Center, a drug-addiction center based in Mississippi, this month used a crowd-sourced national price directory to compile the average price of high- and medium-quality marijuana for each state. They broke down prices for two amounts: one ounce and one “joint” (as defined by a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study at 0.66 grams). The directory does not differentiate between prices for medical cannabis, legal cannabis, and illegal cannabis. When self-reporting prices, there is no place to clarify where or how the marijuana was purchased.

The national average price of one ounce of high-quality marijuana is reported at $326. In New Jersey, one ounce can set you back $344. The District of Columbia — where marijuana use is legal — is the most expensive by a significant margin, at $597.88. Two other high-price locations are North Dakota ($383.60) and Virginia ($364.89). These are places, the report authors note, where marijuana use is somewhat restricted: In D.C., although use is legal, it is illegal to purchase; in North Dakota it’s only legal for medical use; and in Virginia it’s not legal at any level. The three least expensive states for marijuana all allow legal recreational use: Oregon ($210.75), Washington State ($232.90), and Colorado ($241.74).

The national average cost for one ounce of medium-quality marijuana is $265.58. In New Jersey, an ounce would cost $299 on average.

For those looking to light up less than an ounce, one joint of high-quality weed costs $7.59 on average across the country. In New Jersey, a joint would set you back $8. The most expensive places for a high-quality joint are Washington, D.C. ($13.92), North Dakota ($8.93), and Virginia ($8.49).

For a joint of lesser quality, the national average price is $6.18; in New Jersey, it’s $6.95.

May 6, 2019

New Jersey ranked among the top tier of the states for the average salary of its public school teachers in 2017-2018; it came in sixth with an average salary of $69,917. That’s according to the latest analysis of various educational measurements (in the 50 states and the District of Columbia) by the National Education Association. The top five states were New York ($84,227), California ($80,680), Massachusetts ($80,357), District of Columbia ($76,486) and Connecticut ($74,517). At the bottom of the rankings were Mississippi ($44,926), West Virginia ($45,642), Oklahoma ($46,300), New Mexico ($47,152), and South Dakota ($47,631).

The NEA found that the U.S. average one-year change in public school teacher salaries from 2016–2017 to 2017–2018 was 1.58 percent. The largest one-year decrease was in Nevada (-0.7 percent), and the largest one-year increase was in Arkansas (4.6 percent).

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