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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Good policy, bad timing

At the same time as students at The College of New Jersey, Rutgers, and other state colleges face tuition hikes from anywhere between 3 and 9 percent, the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities is announcing a plan to try and get more state high school students into places of higher learning in New Jersey.

The cause seems to be a worthy one, considering that college students educated here tend to stay and work in New Jersey.

But the fact that this organization is announcing their plan at the same time as crippling tuition hikes hit state colleges shows a major disconnect between the goals of education and the goals of state officials directing fiscal policy.

Those state officials would have opened the purse a bit more and provided for state colleges, keeping tuition down, if they really supported and cared for such an initiative as the the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities' Promise plan.

That's because the simple act of allowing such large-scale tuition hikes makes out-of-state schools more attractive to New Jersey's high school students, as the public versus private tuition costs become more comparable.

So state fiscal decisions promise to short-circuit the valiant efforts of those making policy for the state's impressive portfolio of higher learning institutions.

Indirectly, one can once again thank the dismal condition of the finances of state government for this.

A healthier state finance picture with less pension requirements, debt, pay-to-play, and any other of the less attractive features of the state edifice would result in New Jersey kids having to pony up less dough to go to Rutgers University or Thomas Edison State College.

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