New Jersey lawmakers float bipartisan proposal to rethink higher education funding


New Jersey spends 3.6% of tax revenues on higher education, and that is not enough to keep tuition costs down, according to Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Democratic Sen. Vin Gopal.

Kean and Gopal are co-sponsoring a bill that would create a permanent funding formula for higher education.

The bill would establish the New Jersey Higher Education Funding Formula Commission, which would analyze the funding formulas in other states and review New Jersey’s spending.

“The commission's recommendations will help our state colleges in a way that does not currently exist in New Jersey,” Gopal said in a statement.

Kean said the state “has consistently underfunded our colleges and universities leading to tuition increases and a crisis of affordability.”

“It's time for New Jersey to systematically address the funding needs of our state colleges to lower costs for students and reduce the need for loans that may take decades to repay after graduation,” Kean said.

Statistics from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education show a 27.8 percent increase in full-time in-state tuition and fees at the state’s public four-year institutions of higher from 2009 to 2018. The average cost of tuition for in-state students at New Jersey’s four-year colleges is $14,956, according to, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The national average is $10,400, according to the College Board.

The higher tuition costs lead students to rely on student loans for funding, which affects them after graduation, according to Gopal.

“Most try to pay off their debt responsibly – not moving out of parent's homes, no added or extra expenses, taking on multiple jobs to help make ends meet – and it still is not enough to get them out of the hole,” Gopal said. “Making higher education provide predictable state funding will allow tuition to be more affordable for students so they can go on to live financially successful lives after graduation.”

Gov. Phil Murphy’s Garden State Guarantee, announced during the governor’s budget address, also aimed to address tuition costs. The program would award free college tuition to students with an income of $65,000 after other financial options are exhausted. The program, if approved, would go into effect in the fall of 2022.

Murphy is proposing a new funding formula for the state’s public four-year institutions based on three criteria: the number of degrees awarded; the number of degrees awarded to ethnic and racial minority groups; and the number of students attending the university who qualify for Pell grants.

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