When measuring progress in education, you usually hear about how states such as Mississippi or Alabama are last in the nation.
But a report presented to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had shocking news for the Garden State.
When it comes to increased spending on its public universities in recent years, New Jersey came in last. That would be bottom of the barrel.
In reality, while every other state was increasing its spending on higher education from 2005 to 2008, New Jersey actually cut its spending--though by only .3%.
Still, all those other states, including Mississippi and Alabama, increased their spending over that same time period. (New York higher education spending went up 16.7% and Connecticut 18.9%.)
"The headline on Rutgers is that Rutgers needs to be turned from good to great," said Governor Christie at a Statehouse news conference with the chairman of the Task Force, former Governor Tom Kean, Sr.
The report found another category in which New Jersey ranks last.
As of 2007, it had the fewest number of seats in public universities per hundred high school graduates.
That would be 19 higher education slots for every 100 high school graduates. Mississippi actually does pretty well, with about 30 slots and Alabama even better, with about 43. New York offers about 29, Connecticut 25.
The report finds fault with how New Jersey handles collective bargaining with university staff and faculty.
Instead of giving that power to individual schools, it is all done out of Trenton.
And, for example, that means that this year, faculty are getting an 11% pay hike.
"In this kind of environment, that kind of salary increase is a little excessive," said task force member and Thomas Edison State University President Dr. George Pruitt.
But with state support falling, that means tuition hikes have been escalating, making it harder and harder for students to afford college.
To former Governor Kean, that only increases the urgency of reform and more state support.
"If we don't do this, we're going to see a continuing decline not only in higher education but in the state as a whole and its job picture," Kean said.
Christie said more money for higher education is his number one priority, and promised exactly that "as soon as the economy turns around."
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