OPINION: “Investing In Our Future: Three Compelling Reasons To Vote “Yes” On Issue #1

By Dr. Darryl G. Greer

Voters will hear many good reasons to vote “yes” on the higher education facilities bond, on the Nov. 6, ballot; the first such investment in New Jersey higher education since 1988. A vote for the bond is important far beyond the facilities it will build, and the jobs it will create. In my opinion, there are three powerful reasons to pass this important bond:

While New Jersey is a great place to live and prosper, we compete with other states and other nations, globally for ideas, resources and economic well being. In an increasingly competitive global economy, the smartest investment we can make is in the long-term educational strength of our citizens. The United States is no longer the world’s leader on measures of college-level attainment, as indicated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Every advanced and developing country in the world and every state in the US are striving to increase productivity and competitiveness by investing in postsecondary education. A recent Georgetown University study points out that in the lingering global recession, only college graduates stand out as winners instead of losers in keeping and gaining new jobs. College graduates, globally, are healthier, live longer, contribute more to their communities, and maintain stronger family ties for life. It is a smart investment in all our futures to vote “yes” on the bond.

Public opinion polling tells us something we all know intuitively: New Jerseyans care about their families, are willing to work hard, and want to see loved ones stay here to prosper together. Our strong sense of place and desire to keep our children and grandchildren near are another strong reason to support the bond. New Jerseyans want to see family members attend in-state colleges and universities, graduate, and stay in the Garden State to make a life and a living.

The state’s economy is firmly based on service industries, such as health and pharmaceuticals, financial organizations, hospitality and communications services. It is especially important to strengthen the infrastructure of our colleges to provide the highly skilled graduates these industries need to stay in New Jersey and to create jobs. Studies from the Heldrich Center at Rutgers University and the South Jersey Economic Review at Richard Stockton College indicate clearly the connection between growing these sectors of the economy and the need for high quality postsecondary education. Furthermore, economic impact studies at Stockton and other colleges indicate that investing in our colleges pays off at 2-1/2 to 3 times the initial investment, for years to come. Keeping our loved ones here to work and prosper is simply smart.

Unfortunately, New Jersey has been reducing investment in colleges and universities for decades. Several recent national studies indicate that this disinvestment is the leading reason for the increasing cost of college. Even with greater college productivity, and more active fund raising from private sources, currently, students and families in New Jersey pay about 70% of the cost of a public college through tuition and fees. Twenty years ago the state paid 60-70% of the cost. The cost shift from state support, to families is dramatic; resulting in students and families paying for academic facilities that should be a long-term state responsibility.

A vote for the bond will correct some of the imbalance, by providing millions of dollars for academic facility investment that has been postponed for too long, thereby taking pressure off of raising colleges’ fees for needed academic infrastructure. The facilities the bond will pay for are core academic facilities, such as labs and classrooms that will provide spaces for NJ students for decades to come. Support for the bond helps to ensure access to more affordable colleges; another smart investment.

When we go to vote in November, envision a future beyond the brick and mortar that the bond will help build. Vote for a future in which NJ is globally competitive; one in which we increase the likelihood of our loved ones staying here to work and to prosper; and one that will provide ongoing college opportunity that future generations can afford.

A “yes” vote for the higher education bond is a smart investment that New Jerseyans can take pride in.

Dr. Darryl G. Greer is a Senior Fellow for Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. From 1986-2011, he served as CEO of the NJ Association of State Colleges and Universities. He resides in Pennington.

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