State Colleges Urge Students To ‘Come Home’ This Fall


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The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is one of the 10 state colleges participating in #NJComeHome.

New Jersey’s public colleges have a message for students who have been studying out of state: Come home.

Ten institutions–Montclair State, New Jersey City University, Thomas Edison State University, Kean University, Stockton University, NJIT, William Paterson, Rowan University, TCNJ and Ramapo College–have launched a website to promote the benefits of a New Jersey education to the 120,000 New Jersey residents who attend a college or university elsewhere.  They are promising an easy transfer process, potentially lower tuition and costs, and opportunities for community service akin to the Peace Corps in their home state.

“Given the hardship and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many Garden State residents who had been studying out of state will undoubtedly be looking for high-quality, lower-cost, closer-to-home options for their education,” says Kathryn A. Foster, president of The College of New Jersey. “TCNJ Jersey is pleased to join the state’s other public colleges and universities in opening its doors to these students, offering them the opportunity to earn a degree and make a difference in their home state.” Foster is a 1975 graduate of Verona High School and spoke last year to VHS students about the transition to college.

Each of the participating schools–all four-year institutions–has slightly different rules depending on their capacity and they have set up special pages on their websites, accessible through NJComeHome to communicate them.  At TCNJ, that means that there will be 50 majors open to New Jersey Scholar Corps applicants.

Coming home has the potential to lower costs for some students. Tuition at TCNJ was $6,473.74 per semester for the 2018-2019 year, and the White House College Scorecard, a website created by the U.S. Department of Education, pegs the average annual cost of attending TCNJ–tuition, living costs, books, and fees minus the average grants and scholarships for federal financial aid recipients–at $27,026. The comparable cost at The University of Scranton, a private college in Pennsylvania that has been popular with VHS students, is $35,313. The average annual cost at Sacred Heart University, another popular VHS destination, is $41,066, according to the Scorecard, which was created by the Obama administration to help students and parents to get a sense of the true cost of attending college. Many institutions that appear very expensive can be less so because they have substantial endowments that they use for scholarships. The website also shows the percentage of students who graduate in four years at each institution and average salaries after graduation.

Coming home also could benefit communities that have been hit hard by COVID-19. NJComeHome is establishing a New Jersey Scholar Corps that will combine volunteer service with an education. “Whether it’s restocking the shelves at local food banks, coordinating family assistance programs, or volunteering to help frontline workers, each institution will work with local communities and develop programs that fit the area’s needs,” the website says. 

Getting more New Jersey students to study in-state could also have benefits for the colleges. A recent report by the independent news website NJSpotlight noted that many New Jersey colleges face the possibility of lower state and federal government support because of the pandemic. Rutgers University, which is not participating in NJComeHome, is anticipating a budget shortfall of $200 million for the current fiscal year and has said it would cut administration salaries and freeze construction projects among other measures. The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will be able to close the gaps caused by the pandemic for this year but is planning a 2020-2021 budget based on “grim assumptions,” NJSpotlight reported. Many New Jersey colleges also depend on the presence of foreign students, who generally pay full tuition, and who may not be able to return to the U.S. in the fall. NJIT’s 2018 freshman class included students from 18 different countries, for example.

The wildcard is that, because of COVID-19, few institutions have clarity on whether they will be able to offer a full in-person education in the fall. Notre Dame said this week that it will be back on campus, with an early start and a compressed schedule but California’s state college system has said that most classes will be online only. According to NJSpotlight, William Paterson is assessing a variety of scenarios for the fall, from a compressed schedule to alternating class schedules that could reduce the number of people on campus at one time–more more of virtual learning.

The New Jersey Scholar Corps program is open to all New Jersey students now studying at an accredited four-year, out-of-state university or college. The program will offer a streamlined application for transfer and students can apply to one, or to several institutions.The participating colleges are also guaranteeing acceptance of all credits earned with a grade of C or better at the out-of-state institution and on-campus housing, at campuses that offer student housing, based on availability at the time a student commits. For more information about NJComeHome, visit its website.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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