Economic Trends February 2019

Keys to New Jersey’s Economy

Two primary factors motivate the migration decisions of people age 18-34: where to continue their postsecondary education and where to begin their careers. As various NJBIA studies have noted, New Jersey has the largest net loss of first-time college students and the largest net loss of 18- to 34-year-olds in the nation. 

Once these individuals leave the state, they may not come back. This is bad news for the Garden State because the loss of these individuals signifies a potential loss of future economic activity.

Higher education institutions are an essential component for New Jersey’s future success. New Jersey currently houses 24 traditional four-year colleges/universities and is home to three “Top 100” institutions. While these stats may seem like large numbers, in truth, they are quite small compared to what some other states within the region offer.

Top Ranked Colleges. New Jersey has one of the best K-12 education systems in the country, so high school graduates are looking to continue their education at top-tier institutions. As such, institutional rankings matter. Princeton University, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and Stevens Institute of Technology are New Jersey’s only institutions that rank in the “Top 100” of U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best College rankings.

Compare this to New York and Massachusetts, which each have 10 “Top 100” institutions, and Pennsylvania, which has six, and it’s easy to see why some graduates would choose to go out of state. 

Location. Simply put, New Jersey’s top-tier institutions are geographically dispersed. Of the 10 ranked universities in Massachusetts, seven are centrally located (within a 10-mile radius) in Boston. This centralized city location provides institutions with a second-to-none live, work and play atmosphere as well as an environment that spurs competition and innovation. All of this attracts and retains top-tier talent to the Boston area.

Research Funding. In 2018, the National Science Foundation awarded $157 million to New Jersey institutions. In comparison, New York and Massachusetts each were awarded more than $400 million. New Jersey also lags significantly in endowment money, which allows higher education institutions to build state-of-the-art facilities for academics and research. 

New Jersey countered with the Building Our Future Bond Act in 2012, which provided postsecondary institutions with a $750 million upgrade to their facilities. NJBIA supported the measure, but this one-time infusion of capital is not enough for New Jersey schools to keep pace with their competitors.

New Jersey’s ability to retain and attract young individuals will play a key role in the economic success of the Garden State, so support for higher education must be a key component of New Jersey’s economic policies.

*This content was originally created for the New Jersey Business Magazine and/or the New Jersey Business & Industry Association*