Gov. Phil Murphy’s new higher education plan, released Tuesday, focuses on improving access to college and opportunities beyond college.
Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis announced the release of “Where Opportunity Meets Innovation: A Student-Centered Vision for New Jersey Higher Education,” at Rutgers University-Newark among students, state officials and other stakeholders.
The plan included a Student Bill of Rights that calls for exposure to post-secondary and career pathways in high school, financial transparency regarding the cost of college, on-the-job experience before graduation, supportive staff and campuses, and a voice in crafting policies.
It also spelled out immediate actions to be taken to ensure the rights become a reality, among them fee-free college preparatory programs, new partnerships between the state and higher education institutions to reduce costs, and building support systems to help students thrive and graduate.
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“Today, New Jersey’s great colleges and universities set course to make our state the hub for American innovation and economic opportunity,” Murphy said during Tuesday’s announcement. “My administration has committed to growing New Jersey from the middle out and lifting communities from the bottom up. There’s no better way to achieve those goals than strengthening our state’s institutions of higher education. In a knowledge-based global economy, what New Jerseyans know will matter a lot more than who they know.”
New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka said Murphy’s announcement marks a milestone in creating a strategic plan for higher education in the state. He said the plan was appropriately funded, will keep young people in the state and provides a more effective path to the workforce.
“Many employers relate to us that the next-generation workforce lacks technical skills and employability skills such as problem solving, teamwork and self-direction. Skill-building through enhanced capacity at both our K-12 and Career and Technical Education programs, as well as broadened opportunities for experiential learning across the educational spectrum, is a big step in the right direction,” Siekerka said.
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Smith Ellis said higher education is where opportunity meets innovation. She said the plan, which was developed over the past year, ensures every student access to an education that prepares them for life after college.
“Since taking office, I have had countless meetings with those invested in the state’s post-secondary education future. Most importantly, I have talked to students from colleges and universities all around the state, and learned firsthand their passion for learning and the challenges they encounter on the way to getting a college credential. The plan released today represents the collective wisdom of those conversations,” she said.
The plan has a goal of achieving 65 percent post-secondary attainment by 2025.
Working toward that goal, Murphy on Tuesday signed an executive order to create a Task Force on New Jersey’s Plan for Higher Education, split into five subgroups, each of which is to issue a final report on its subject area within nine months. Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman will co-chair the working group on Student Success with Reginald Lewis, executive director of the Newark City of Learning Collaborative and an assistant professor at Rutgers Newark.
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“Student success is integral to Stockton’s mission of Students First,” Kesselman said. “I could not be more pleased that Gov. Murphy and Secretary Ellis Smith have made it a cornerstone of their strategic plan for higher education in New Jersey. They are to be commended for clearly identifying areas upon which those of us in higher education can rally around. I look forward to working with the secretary as she begins implementing the plan.”
In addition, Murphy’s 2020 higher education budget proposal includes the redistribution of $15 million in current operating aid and an additional $20 million in new aid to be distributed based on outcomes.