Assembly Democratic Budget Committee member Elizabeth Maher Muoio raised concerns during Monday’s hearing on the Christie administration’s FY 2018 funding proposal for higher education, stressing the need to focus on improving student outcomes for aid recipients.
“New Jersey is a national leader in providing need-based aid, yet tuition rates and mandatory fees are soaring to make up for cuts in operational aid, which continues to pose challenges.
“Nearly 70 percent of students graduate with some form of debt and even more unsettling are the increasing number of former students who are winding up with debt and no degree. When it comes to poor and minority students, the disparity among success rates is even more enormous.
“My concern is that New Jersey is not focusing enough resources on the EOF (Equal Opportunity Fund) and TAG (Tuition Aid Grant) programs, particularly when it comes to establishing metrics to measure success and improve outcomes. The EOF program, in particular, is a highly successful, comprehensive program in terms of the support system it provides and the graduation rates it produces and yet the administration is proposing an 8.4 percent cut in funding from last year.
“Moving forward, I’d like to see the state take advantage of the two-year old law that requires data on graduation rates to be compiled so that aid for low-income students can be targeted to schools that are producing the best outcomes.
“The ultimate goal of our higher education system should be to educate our students in a way that will enable them to become productive members of society, rather than saddled with debt and no positive outcome,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).