The NJ budget was signed into law today by Jon “Seatbelt” Corzine and the news for Rutgers was all bad. Per Slick McCormick’s memo to members of the Rutgers community: “Direct state operating aid to Rutgers will be $293 million, a 10.8 percent decrease from the current year. Operating aid for all senior public colleges and universities will decrease by 10.4 percent. The percentage reduction for Rutgers is slightly higher due to the impact of a state budget penalty for enrolling non-New Jersey residents.”
This is all bad news for excellence in academics at Rutgers.
We won’t even mention how vice president Jeannine LaRue did in her job of persuading Trenton to adequately fund Rutgers. We haven’t changed our mind about what we’d posted on that topic in the past.
Per Slick McCormick, the budget also had bad news for the state’s best high school students: “appropriations for the Outstanding Scholars program will continue to be phased out.” That program offered financial rewards to top high schoolers who chose to pursue higher education at NJ schools, but Trenton in its wisdom has chosen to go Hannibal Lecter on outstanding scholars. One upshot is that New Jersey annually exports 20,000 first-year students to other states — the nation’s highest out-migration — and, sadly, the best high schoolers often are in those numbers. Trenton for its part is doing nothing to persuade those students to stay home.
On that note, re-read Jeff Kessler’s poignant 2006 Targum piece, written after the first Trenton assault on outstanding scholars — and know that now things are worse. Trenton has in effect given the finger to NJ’s top high schoolers, their parents, and, really, to all the rest of us who might harbor hopes of bringing the best students to the Banks.
The message to New Jersey’s best high school students is starkly vivid: pack your bags and plan to head out of state. Trenton leaves you with no other choice. As far as Trenton is concerned, Rutgers gets a blank check to fund football — but as for books, forget about it! And if that doesn’t persuade you to go out of state….