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9-15-15 Education in the News - Common Core...NJ College Tuition Costs

NJ Spotlight - Common Core Review Committee Rolls Up Sleeves, Gets To Work On Revisions…Most members work in public education but panel also includes parents and representatives of business community


Twenty-four people make up the group given the task of following up on Gov. Chris Christie’s call to rethink the Common Core State Standards for New Jersey – and then there’s the 70 other people named to subcommittees.

Starting this month, and over the next three months, they will have a busy schedule as they try to come up with revisions to the state’s standards to meet Christie’s sudden – and some say politically driven -- dictate this summer that the Common Core Standards aren’t good enough for New Jersey.

A vast majority of the members of the so-called Standards Review Committee work in K-12 public schools, but at least four more members are parent representatives, while two represent business groups and another five are from the realm of higher education. Three of the members are school district superintendents, and one is a leader from charter schools.




“We’re excited to be part of the process,” said Tyler Seville of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“I hope they move toward deeper learning,” added Chris Manno, superintendent of Burlington County Institute of Technology.

“I think [the standards] are fine as they are, and I’ll bring that perspective,” said Emil Carafa, a Lodi principal.

All volunteers to the cause, the review committee members and their colleagues on three grade- and subject-specific subcommittees met for the first time on Sept. 1 at Monmouth University, as state Department of Education staff reviewed the work ahead.

The first of three public meetings in the process – billed as a “listening tour” – will be held Thursday, at 6 p.m. at the Public Safety Training Academy on West Hanover Avenue in Parsippany.

Christie wants the committee to recommend revisions to the standards in math and language arts by the end of the year, a deadline he set when he declared that he was backing off his support of the Common Core, saying it’s not rigorous enough and that such academic standards should be developed locally.





Widely viewed as a shift to appease the political right in his bid for the White House, Christie’s announcement sent tremors through the state’s education establishment, which had been phasing in the Common Core Standards since they were adopted in New Jersey – with Christie’s blessing -- in 2010.

Some of those who had backed the standards and their accompanying testing are among those on the committees, and they acknowledged they are serving with some trepidation – but also with a strong sense that they want to be part of the process.

One is Rose Acerra, president-elect of the New Jersey PTA and a leader in a organization that advocated for the standards, even in the face of growing protests over the Common Core-related online PARCC exams -- which state officials said will remain in place for the time being.

“Ever since Christie’s announcement, people have been very upset by it,” she said yesterday.

But Acerra said a review of standards every four or five years is not uncommon, and that she’s glad that the PTA is well-represented.

“As parents become more educated, I think they will see the value of standards,” she said.

The state PTA is sending out an email alert to its members today, Acerra said, calling on them to share their concerns and questions through the process – particularly by responding to a survey on the state Education Department’s website that asks respondents to speak to individual standards by grade. The survey closes October 9.

“We are telling them, ‘Please, get out there and voice your opinions,’ ” Acerra said.

Others bring different perspectives.

Seville, the director of education and workforce development for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said business leaders have long expressed concerns about the career readiness or “employability” of New Jersey’s high school graduates, and that anything done to strengthen the standards toward achieving those goals would be an improvement.

He didn’t speak to the Common Core and whether those standards are rigorous enough, but he said clear communication of the standards to both schools and families would be useful.

“I don’t foresee too much (change) and we’re not throwing out the baby with the bath water,” he said. “But I do think they need to be clear and coherent. Parents need to be communicated with more.”

Manno, the Burlington County superintendent and a regional superintendent of the year in 2012, brings a perspective from both his previous job leading the comprehensive district in Burlington Township and his current job in a district serving both special-needs and vocational students.

His push is to bring a perspective on what he calls “deeper learning,” he said, an approach based on being able to complete tasks, doing the thinking necessary to work through problems, and then being able to communicate those results.

“It’s really where standards need to go in the future, with students becoming consumers and users of their education,” he said. “The Common Core was moving in that direction, but I’m interested in improving on them.”

Manno said he is aware of the political conjecture surrounding Christie’s move, but that he has tried to look past that.

“I think reflecting and improving is never a bad thing,” he said. “I try not to get caught up in the rhetoric and debate, but instead want to be part of taking on the task at hand.”

Carafa, the Lodi principal, is unapologetic when he says the Common Core represents a big improvement on previous academic standards and that he hopes there aren’t too many changes. But he, too, said a review is not a bad thing, and that some improvements might be found.

“If there are people who think they are not rigorous enough, we need to address that,” he said.


Star Ledger - How much does college cost in N.J.? 4-year schools raise tuition

By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on September 15, 2015 at 7:52 AM, updated September 15, 2015 at 10:36 AM

TRENTON — At a public hearing at Union County College on Wednesday about college affordability, a panel of New Jersey college presidents and faculty and student representatives will solicit feedback on ideas both radical and pragmatic. 

From a "pay it forward" system that initially waives tuition, to a more seamless transition between community college and four-year universities, the goal is to find ways to reduce the financial burden of earning a college degree. 

But any recommendations the new College Affordability Study Commission makes to Gov. Chris Christie will come too late to help students who arrived on campus this semester.

Every traditional four-year public and private institution in the state has raised annual tuition and fees for 2015-16, according to an NJ Advance Media survey of two dozen four-year schools.

RELATED: What Rutgers students need to know about the 2015-2016 tuition hike

Monmouth University had the highest tuition and fee increase among private schools at 4.4 percent. New Jersey City University and Kean University each raised tuition and fees 3 percent, the most among four-year public schools.

Only William Paterson University in Wayne and the College of Saint Elizabeth, a private women's college in Morristown, raised tuition and fees lower than 2 percent.

"We know we are in a hot zone with regard to the idea of 'Can I send my son or daughter to college, and how are we going to pay for it?'" said Fred Keating, president of Rowan College at Gloucester County and chairman of the College Affordability Study Commission.

New Jersey residents are not alone; the rising cost of college in America and crippling student debt has sparked national debate and policy proposals. However, New Jersey has yet make significant progress in curbing costs and remains home to some of the most expensive public schools in the country. 

For tuition and fees alone, first-year students attending four-year public college and universities are being charged between $11,258 (New Jersey City University) and $16,108 (New Jersey Institute of Technology) this year. That doesn't include room, board, books, transportation and other fees that raise the total cost of attendance by another $10,000 or more.

At Rutgers University, the state's largest university, students on the main campus in New Brunswick-Piscataway will pay $14,231 in tuition and fees, $318 or 2.3 percent, more than last year. Once room and board are added in, the average student living on the New Brunswick campus will pay $26,185 this year to attend the school. 

At New Jersey private schools, the price for first-year students ranges from $27,800 at Bloomfield College to $47,190 at Stevens Institute of Technology, before adding room and board.

RELATED: These are the 10 best college majors for earning potential

Thomas Edison State College, for-profit colleges and online schools that charge varying rates or do not have traditional semester structures were not included in the survey because their tuition systems make it difficult to compare rates.

Despite the rising tuition rates, New Jersey colleges and universities maintain that they are still a good value.

At the College of New Jersey, where tuition and fees rose 2.9 percent to $15,446, more than 70 percent of students graduate in four years, one of the highest rates in the country, spokesman David Muha said. 

"The faster a student is able to earn their degree, the less they will pay in tuition and the sooner they will be able to embark on their career," Muha said. 

Some schools attributed tuition increases in part to contractual raises for faculty and said the rising costs are necessary to maintain academic standards.

They also pointed to increases in student aid that aren't reflected in the "sticker prices" for tuition and fees. 

As a "high-tuition, high-aid" state, New Jersey colleges charge above-average tuitions, but the state offers financial aid packages to low-income students. Those packages include state Tuition Aid Grants, known as TAG.

New Jersey's neediest students are well-provided for in terms of financial aid, Passaic County Community College President Steven Rose told the affordability commission in May.

But the high-tuition, high-aid model needs to be reviewed because it doesn't help students from middle-class or lower middle-class families, said Steven Rose, chairman of the New Jersey Presidents' Council, which represents the state's college and university presidents 

"There is a huge group of students, and I would argue a growing group of students, that is getting caught in the middle of this, that still cannot afford to go to college and are really being hurt by our high tuitions that we have at our institutions," Rose told the affordability commission. 

Addressing the problem is complicated, though, Rose said, and he didn't suggest a way to fix it. 

Keating, chairman of the commission, said he agrees that some students are being priced out of college.

"Those are the individuals that are not getting the scholarships, that are not getting the TAG grants and other assistance grants because of their income, and they are not of means where money is no object," he said. 

However, suggesting colleges and universities freeze or lower tuition, as some state lawmakers have done, likely isn't the solution, Keating said. He also doesn't believe that calling on the state government to spend another $1 billion on higher education is a realistic recommendation, he said. 

Instead, the commission will focus more on the structure of student debt and ways to get students through college more quickly, including taking college credits in their senior year of high school and improving the transfer of credits from community colleges to four-year universities, he said. 

"We really feel that we want to keep these committee recommendations to workable, pragmatic thoughts that we can deliver if the economy of New Jersey somewhat improves," Keating said. 

The commission's public hearing at Union County College is at 10:30 a.m Wednesday in the Cranford Campus' Roy Smith Theater. 

Hearings will also be held Nov. 18 at the College of New Jersey and Jan. 20 at Rowan University. 

The commission encourages students, parents, and other members of the public to  provide their thoughts and recommendations. 

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.