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Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. provided a stark but erroneous statistic comparing New Jersey’s investment in higher education to the rest of the nation.
While touring William Paterson University to rally support for a bond referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, Kean said in the last decade New Jersey was the only state in the country that took money away from higher education. If voters approve the referendum, New Jersey may borrow $750 million to fund construction projects at all of the state’s colleges and universities.
"New Jersey is the only state in the union that spent less on higher education than it did at the beginning of the decade," Kean, the Senate minority leader, said to reporters on Oct. 17. "That's unfathomable that over the course of the last decade the state aid to higher education went down."
Here, we’ll address Kean’s point that only New Jersey decreased aid over the last decade.
On that point, Kean is wrong.
The legislator’s spokesman, Adam Bauer, said Kean meant to refer to state appropriations for higher education in the two-year window between fiscal years 2006 and 2008.
Over those years, New Jersey was the only state to decrease its aid for higher education, according to a Rutgers University analysis of data from the Grapevine report produced by Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.
New Jersey’s state tax funds for operating expenses of higher education fell by 0.3 percent in that time frame.
As of fiscal year 2010, the Grapevine report has been produced in cooperation with the State Higher Education Executive Officers.
According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers data on state and local support available for public higher education operating expenses, New Jersey’s appropriations have increased during the last decade.
By that measure, New Jersey’s appropriations increased by 37 percent from 2000 to 2010. Other measures of state support for higher education also show increases of more than 30 percent over the last decade.
But what about inflation? Depending on what index you use to adjust for inflation -- the State Higher Education Executive Officers uses an index specifically intended to take into account the increases in costs for colleges and universities -- the amount of the percentage increase in educational appropriations varies, but it is still an increase.
The amount of per-student spending is another worthwhile way to compare higher education spending between states, according to experts.
The State Higher Education Executive Officers calculates the educational appropriations for each equivalent of a full-time student in constant dollars.
New Jersey spent $11,194 by that measure in 2000. By 2010, that amount had dropped to $7,300.
But even by that measure, New Jersey’s far from alone. More than 40 states decreased educational appropriations per student over the decade.
"New Jersey is the only state in the union that spent less on higher education than it did at the beginning of the decade," said Kean.
That’s not true.
Kean’s spokesman said he intended to refer to the two-year period between fiscal years 2006 and 2008, but over the last decade, the raw numbers show appropriations for higher education in New Jersey have increased.
Spending levels per student have decreased over the last decade. But data shows New Jersey is one of dozens of states to cut funding by that measure.
We rate this statement False.
To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.
YouTube, Senators Sweeney and Kean Visit William Paterson to Discuss Support for Bond Referendum, Oct. 18, 2012
E-mail interview with Adam Bauer, spokesman for state Sen. Thomas Kean, Oct. 24, 2012
Grapevine, Historical Data, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
Grapevine, Summary Tables, Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-12, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
Center for the Study of Education Policy, Grapevine Compilation of State Higher Education Tax Appropriations Data for Fiscal Year 2008, June 2008
State Higher Education Executive Officers, State Higher Education Finance: FY 2011, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
State Higher Education Executive Officers, All SHEF Data Table, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
State Higher Education Executive Officers, 1986-2011 All States and National (XLS), accessed Oct. 23, 2012
Phone and e-mail interview with Andy Carlson, policy analyst with the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers, Oct. 23 & 24, 2012
Interview with Paul Shelly, spokesman for the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, Oct. 24, 2012
Interview with James C. Palmer, Grapevine Editor for the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Oct. 24, 2012
New Jersey Association of State Colleges & Universities, NJ State College/University
Accountability Sourcebook, March 2012
Interview with Darryl Greer, senior fellow of Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Oct. 25, 2012
Interview with Wendell Hall, deputy director of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Oct. 25, 2012
New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, Budget and Finance, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
State of New Jersey, The Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education, December 2010
New Jersey 101.5, NJ Leaders Push Higher-Ed Bond Question Ahead Of Election [AUDIO], Oct. 17, 2012
The Record, Bond backers push support for $750M college construction ballot question, Oct. 17, 2012
New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, Higher Education Budget, accessed Oct. 23, 2012
NBC New York, NJ Voters Weigh Bond for Colleges, Universities, Oct. 22, 2012
The Star-Ledger, N.J. voters to decide whether to approve $750M in higher education borrowing, Aug. 8, 2012
New Jersey Legislature, Senate Bill No. 2500, introduced June 14, 2012
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CPI Inflation Calculator, accessed Oct. 25, 2012
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