Gov. Murphy Unveils Higher Education Plan at Rutgers University-Newark

Gov. Murphy Unveils Higher Education Plan at Rutgers University-Newark

Plan would make state’s higher education system more accessible, affordable and transparent

Gov. Murphy said the goal of the new plan is to reclaim the "state’s mantle as the global leader in innovation.''
Photo: Nick Romanenko

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis unveiled a plan Tuesday at Rutgers University-Newark to transform the state’s higher education system by making it more accessible, affordable and transparent.

“Where Opportunity Meets Innovation: A Student-Centered Vision for New Jersey Higher Education” lays out meaningful goals and aspirations and recognizes, from the outset, that higher education is key to success at every level – for the individual, for our communities and for our state. It addresses the need to make the cost of higher education more predictable from enrollment to graduation and create better connections between higher education and New Jersey’s economy, Murphy said.

“Our goal is to keep more of our young people here in New Jersey so they can be a part of our state’s future,” Murphy said. “I’m tired of New Jersey’s leading export being our college-bound high school seniors.”

In addition to retaining New Jersey students for an in-state education, the governor said his goal is to unite the state’s 78 institutions of higher education to boost the economy by improving the school-to-workforce pipeline.

New Jersey already has one of the nation’s best-educated workforces, Murphy said, with 48 percent of working-age adults holding a college degree. This new plan sets the bar higher: 65 percent of all working New Jerseyans should hold a post-high school degree or credential by the year 2025.

“Our goal is nothing short of reclaiming our state’s mantle as the global leader in innovation,” Murphy said. “I firmly believe everyone can find their place in that economy.’’

At the centerpiece of the plan, said Smith Ellis, is a 10-part Student Bill of Rights that focuses on early exposure to college, safe and supported campuses, expanded experiential learning and opportunities to earn college credit outside the classroom. The plan also calls for making the cost of post-secondary education transparent and affordable for all.

“We need to make that happen for every student. Period. Full stop,” she said.

Rutgers-Newark accounting and finance major John-Anthony Arroyo shared his story about how access to education was life-changing for him.
Photo: Nick Romanenko
She compared core facets of “Where Opportunity Meets Innovation” to the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) and envisions it opening doors the way EOF has for 50 years.

Rutgers-Newark accounting and finance major John-Anthony Arroyo shared his EOF success story with the audience before introducing the governor. Arroyo, of Paterson, said access to education was life-changing for him.

“Too often hope is a luxury that students don’t have,” said Arroyo, who for much of his high school career believed his future involved a dead-end job or a gang. “EOF has enabled me to make a complete 180. It has taught me to believe in myself and not fear I would become another statistic.”

The new state plan is the first of its kind since the December 2010 Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, which led to the integration of most of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers. This integration, in turn, led to the creation of the state’s premier academic health care system, dedicated to providing high-quality patient care, leading-edge research and world-class health and medical education, through a partnership between Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health.

President Robert L. Barchi said Rutgers is deeply engaged in the state's higher education system and is committed to working with the governor and the higher education secretary to put the plan into action and to realize its ambitions.
Photo: Nick Romanenko
With 70,000 of the state's 530,000 college students enrolled at Rutgers, President Robert L. Barchi said the school is deeply engaged in the state's higher education system and supports the governor’s plan to transform it.

"We at Rutgers are eager to work with Gov. Murphy and Secretary Smith Ellis to expand the governor’s vision into a strategic plan with specific goals, clear outcome measures and a timeline for implementation,” Barchi said.

Building a higher education system in New Jersey that feeds 21st-century job creation across the state will take determination, perseverance and teamwork, he said.

"This plan recognizes the importance of training citizens for our civil democracy, training innovators to lead the new businesses of our state and training the workers who will drive those businesses forward. All of that involves higher education," Barchi said.

"We need to look at access and opportunity – access not just to a bachelor’s degree but also to other kinds of post-secondary education,’’ Barchi continued. “We have to make it affordable. We have to make it accessible.  Most important, we must make sure that students complete it.”