Higher Education Institutions have long lamented the loss of talented New Jersey students seeking degrees outside the state. In fact, New Jersey has the nation’s highest out-migration rate among graduating high school seniors going to college, according to state surveys from the NJBIA. The concern? Once they leave, a significant number will never return. Rowan University came up with unique program to keep students in state, more specifically in South Jersey. Senior Correspondent Brenda Flanagan sat down with President Ali Houshmand.
Flanagan: So, let’s talk about the 32,000 New Jersey students who left to go to college out-of-state last year. They’re calling this the brain drain. Why are kids fleeing Jersey to go to higher education?
Houshmand: I have actually looked at this issue for a long time because it is a very, very serious issue and is a huge expensive issue to the state of New Jersey and I will talk about the cost of the state in an annualized basis. But, there are a number of factors that I can think of. The state of New Jersey first of all, is very narrow and kids tend to leave home and they want to be at least a significant distance away, some kids, from their families. So, that’s one piece. Second, it turns out that socioeconomically family income in New Jersey is higher relatively to many other states, therefore people can afford it. Third thing is I do not believe the state has enough capacity for the population, therefore people need to go and look elsewhere. So, there are a combination of factors that are in play here. Another one, for example, which is shocking to me, people can go to let’s say Pennsylvania, a state institution and a whole other state from New Jersey, and pay less than they would if they were to go to a New Jersey state institution.
Flanagan: So, it’s expensive to go to school in New Jersey and there’s not enough seats.
Houshmand: There’s not enough seats, especially in the southern part of the state there is way too few seats.
Flanagan: So, there’s fierce competition going on and Rowan has come up with 3+1. And this program lets students spend three years at a community college? Talk about this. What’s the plan?
Houshmand: This is a program that is specifically tailor made for workforce development. The county college were created after the second world war for the troops coming back from war to educate them through the GI Bill and specifically with regard to the workforce. What is happening right now, it turns out that a baccalaureate degree today has really replaced the high school diploma of 20 years ago. It has become kind of a necessity. Therefore, the county colleges are having trouble with offering up to an associate degree because people need at least a baccalaureate in order to be functional and have a good earning. So what we have decided to do is to partner with them to offer a baccalaureate degree that are workforce related. These are degrees that are created in collaboration with industries that are going to hire these people, like let’s say mechanical engineering technician, like a physician assistant, like a dental assistant. The kind of workforce that the state and the country badly needs and that can be done in county colleges. So, students basically take three years of the courses from county colleges where the third year is given from our faculty to them and they teach them and they charge the students the county college tuition, which is significantly less than our tuition.
Flanagan: And the fourth year?
Houshmand: The fourth year, we then send our faculty over there and the fourth year is a 15 percent discount on top of that. So, the total cost of a four-year degree becomes to about $25,000.
Flanagan: So, basically you’re talking $25 to $30,000 to get a four-year degree from Rowan. Where as if I was going on campus, it would be $52,000 and if I was living there it would be $98,000?
Houshmand: That’s correct because its $25,000 a year with tuition and fees, plus room and board.
Flanagan: So that’s a huge difference.
Houshmand: It’s a huge difference.
Flanagan: Now, how can Rowan guarantee that the students who are getting the degrees this way with the 3+1 program, have the same quality degree as the ones who were paying full rate?
Houshmand: Well, first of all there is a Lampitt Law in the state of New Jersey that says anybody who attends a county college in the state of New Jersey, the entirety of the courses are transferable to a senior institution. No question asked. That’s one thing, but more importantly what we have done with our partner county colleges is we have aligned our curriculum. Therefore, what we teach on our campus, versus what they teach on their campus is identical and that was the condition for us in order to have that relationship with them. To make sure that the quality that is delivered in terms of the content, the material and the people who teach them are as good as what we do.
Flanagan: Now, you’re marketing Rowan intensely. I think back when you merged with Rutgers you had a goal.
Houshmand: We did not merge, we only talked about merging. We are not collaborating with them.
Flanagan: An enrollment of 25,000 within a decade of 2013. Is this part of that strategy to increase your enrollment?
Houshmand: Exactly, we have started in the year 2010 when we were roughly just under 10,000 students. Today we are 18,500. And during this period of time, not only did we do that, grow the university, but almost double. But, more importantly we have instituted a policy that at Rowan the tuition and fees while I’m the president will never rise beyond the rate of inflation. That’s a commitment that I’ve made that I will be fired if I break it.
Flanagan: Well, let’s hope that the kids respond and keep on coming. I thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
Houshmand: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking with you.