New Jersey residents think colleges in the state provide a good quality education, but they are very concerned about their ability to afford it, according to poll results released Thursday by the Stockton Polling Institute at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.

Seven out of 10 respondents said cost is the biggest obstacle to attending and completing college. About four in 10 said New Jersey colleges are unaffordable.

The survey results come out as colleges are finalizing their 2013-14 budgets and tuition rates.

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Darryl Greer, director of the Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance Center at the college said the poll sends a strong message to college leaders that they must manage better.

Those surveyed were pretty evenly split on how colleges could be more affordable, with the top four answers including capping tuition, providing more financial aid, controlling costs and having more state funding. State funding cuts and salaries and benefits were believed to be the major reasons for cost increases, following by the cost of new facilities and technology.

The majority of the poll questions did not differentiate between private or public colleges, or two-year or four-year colleges. On one question almost 90 percent of respondents said they believe four-year colleges provided the highest quality educational experience.

That disappointed Jacob Farbman, spokesman for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, who said the two-year colleges provide a very affordable option for students concerned about cost, and they can then transfer to a four-year college.

“I think peoples’ instincts are to say the bachelor’s degree is best, but we have a lot to offer,” he said. “Affordability is one of the reasons community colleges exist.”

When asked what colleges could do to reduce the time it takes to get a degree, almost a third chose as their top choice making it easier to transfer credits from another college. And despite the cost, 80 percent said the value and benefits of college make it a good investment of time and money.

When it comes to improving college access and costs, 43 percent of respondents said they most trust the college boards of trustees and presidents, compared with about 21 percent each for the governor and state Legislature.

Stockton Provost Harvey Kesselman said in a statement that higher education officials should work hard to validate that trust.

Greer said he would like to delve more into the responsibilities of the trustees in the management process.

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