Millennials have surpassed baby boomers and Gen Xers as the largest generation in the US workforce today. Better educated, technologically savvy, and achievement-oriented, millennials are a generation on the move, but too many are moving out of New Jersey.
In fact, New Jersey has the nation’s largest outmigration rate of adults age 18 to 34, and that has ominous implications for our workforce and economy. That’s why NJBIA put together a task force of more than 50 prominent leaders in business, education, nonprofits, and state government – as well as millennials – to conduct research and brainstorm solutions. The result of this yearlong collaboration is the NJBIA Postsecondary Education Task Force’s 13-point action plan aimed at enticing more high school graduates to stay in New Jersey to continue their education and careers.
Some proposals require legislative action, while others simply involve creative approaches, greater collaboration between the education, government and business communities, and increased public awareness of nontraditional options for educational degrees and career pathways. Underpinning all 13 recommendations are two essential items: affordability and attractability.
Tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in New Jersey are the fourth-highest in the nation. During the past 25 years, state funding for New Jersey’s public higher education institutions has decreased 40 percent at the same time full-time enrollment has risen 63 percent. The result has been a 142 percent increase in tuition for full-time students at New Jersey’s four-year institutions since 1991. This suggests affordability is a big reason why 56 percent of New Jersey high school students opt to attend out-of-state schools to earn four-year degrees.
Students who do stay in New Jersey take on staggering debt, with 61 percent of college graduates incurring an average $29,878 in loans. Consistent and responsible state funding for higher education is key to controlling tuition costs, but other factors affect affordability and also need to be addressed.
One is the expense of remedial courses, which provide no credit toward a degree, but are required for about one-third of students at four-year institutions and over two-thirds of students at community colleges. When students take loans to pay for classes that provide no credit toward graduation, they are immediately behind the eight ball. Policymakers need to make changes at the K-12 level to reduce the need for remedial college classes and better align high school graduation standards with the standards required for the next step in a student’s educational journey. The task force would also like to see more colleges emulate the example of those that now offer freshman remedial courses in the summer, at no additional cost, so that students aren’t using loans to pay for non-credit courses.
The task force is also recommending policymakers develop more cost-saving models for students to earn four-year degrees. The pathway to a bachelor’s degree doesn’t have to be the traditional way of four years at one time. We need more affordable options that allow students to earn while they learn with post-secondary programs that enable them to work in their chosen field as they build stackable credentials and degrees from community colleges and four-year institutions.
Quality CTE programs, which lead to well-paying jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree, must be part of the state’s efforts to improve its post-secondary branding and delivery. Expanding access to CTE programs, which now have 2.3 applicants for every open seat, is also essential to the effort to retain and attract millennials.
Read the full report and learn more about the task force’s ongoing work at www.njbia.org/2018equation.