Report: New Jersey’s spending on higher education falls short

State spending on higher education remains below pre-recession levels and dropped 21.3 percent per student in the Garden State over a decade, according to a new report.

According to the report by the D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, New Jersey spent $2,113 less per student from 2008 to 2017 after adjusting for inflation.

Forty-four states spent less per student in 2017 than in 2008, but the cuts here have been deeper than average in New Jersey while tuition has increased, according to the report.

Since 2008, the average tuition among New Jersey’s public, four-year colleges has increased $2,015, or 17.5 percent, making it more difficult for low and middle-income students to afford a college education. Rising tuition rates lead to more students graduating with high levels of debt. In 2004, 57 percent of graduates from public, four-year institutions in New Jersey held debt, and the average amount of debt was $14,539. Ten years later in 2014, 69 percent of students held debt and the average amount was $28,345, according to the report.

New Jersey reversed the trend slightly in 2017 by spending $23 more on higher education per student than the previous year, or 0.29 percent.

According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, when comparing the average of combined in-state tuition and fees among four-year public institutions, New Jersey  ranks fourth highest nationally. New Jersey is also no. 1 on the nation for the share of millennials – 47 percent – who live in a parents’ home.

“Ensuring that pursuing higher education and securing a college degree isn’t a guaranteed sentence to economic hardship is one of the most important things New Jersey lawmakers need to address,” said Brandon McKoy, a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “We all know that our state’s economic future is tied to our high-quality public colleges and universities. But those colleges and universities must be more affordable for striving students and their families – and lawmakers need to be doing more to make college more affordable and more accessible.”