Corzine's Affordable Opportunities Initiative
Corzine's plan, the "Affordable Opportunities Initiative," aims to make college more affordable and available through a series of grants, tax credits and loan forgiveness. Additionally, the plan aims to end the steady march of high achieving New Jersey students to colleges and universities in other states, by offering financial incentives to choose in-state schools. Corzine said this so-called "brain drain" hampers growth in our state.As an advocate for “universal higher education” Senator Corzine’s proposal is not surprising, but how luring more college students to attend state subsidized schools makes New Jersey more affordable is beyond us. How many believe New Jersey’s students forgo in-state tuition and attend college for less in another state? Students attend colleges in other states because they choose to do so for any number of reasons, but lower college expenses isn’t one of them.
More than 40 percent of New Jersey high school seniors leave to enroll in higher education in other states – that's more than double the national rate. Too many of our most talented students choose to leave New Jersey for college. What’s worse is that many of them never come back to the state.
Every student that attends a private school in New Jersey or a school out of state saves state funds, thus making the state more affordable for taxpayers. Senator Corzine is trying to shift a greater portion of college expenses from students and their parents to taxpayers. Why? Increased state spending and taxes drain capital from the economy, hampering economic growth and job creation.
New Jersey taxpayers currently spend $2.1 billion on higher education for two- and four-year schools. According to the New Jersey Association for State Colleges and Universities, full-time students pay close to half of the cost of their education in tuition and fees, while the state pays the other half.
At this point in the equation taxpayers are equal partners with New Jersey’s college students. However, the partnership doesn’t end there. For example, about 78 percent of Rutgers undergraduate students receive financial aid, and the average aid package covers 57 percent of tuition, fees room and board. For the vast majority of students, taxpayers pick up 78% of the tab and the student or their parents, 22%.
That seems like a pretty good deal to us. Why does Senator Corzine want to further reduce the student’s investment in their own future? Students (or their parents) with a meaningful financial stake in paying for their education are more apt to value the opportunity and complete their course of study. As The New Jersey Association for State Colleges and Universities website explains:
At public colleges and universities in New Jersey, the state or country, or both, pay for most of the cost of your college education. Don't let all the talk about the cost of college scare you away. If you are capable of college work, you can find a way to handle the costs. The state offers a generous, varied array of student aid programs, to help families and students pay for college.The New Jersey Association for State Colleges and Universities further notes:
The public tends to overestimate the cost of tuition significantly for all categories of colleges, according to polls conducted by the American Council on Education.Mr. Corzine must overestimate the cost of college too if he thinks taxpayers aren’t currently paying their “fair share”. If the Senator wanted to make New Jersey more affordable he should be looking to cut state expenses and taxes, not dreaming up new ways to increase them.
The key to improving the state’s economy and people’s lives through education is to increase student proficiency in public schools and graduation rates from high school. New Jersey will spend $20.7 billion on public schools this year and it is this taxpayer “investment” that needs to provide a greeter return to make New Jersey more affordable.
The average high school graduate earns far more in a lifetime than the average person without a high school diploma. A high school graduate is better equipped to be a productive member of society, less likely to live in poverty and become dependent upon taxpayers for aid. The “brain drain” is occurring in our public schools. Improve public school productivity and the state will prosper, grow and be more affordable for everyone, including taxpayers.
Transferring money from one person or group to another seems to be Senator Corzine’s answer for making New Jersey more affordable in all areas of life. Perhaps life in New Jersey is temporarily more affordable for tax receivers, but it immediately makes life less affordable for taxpayers and less affordable for everyone in the long run.
You have to chuckle at Jon Corzine’s observation that the smart kids are leaving the state and not coming back. Gee, we wonder why?