The Myth of Outmigration

promoted by Rosi

A large number of New Jersey students chose to go to college out of state, and have for at least the past 40 years.  This is a frequently stated rationale for the restructuring of higher education, particularly in South Jersey.   A review of research on this topic does not support the idea that combining or more closely joining the Rutgers University Camden and Rowan University would keep more students at home.  In 2009 Seton Hall doctoral student Alyssa McCloud wrote her dissertation,  Migration Patterns of College Students in New Jersey:  A Synthesis of the Data and Literature, and reviewed all existing studies and data on the subject.

She found that:

• Students who leave their home state for college have higher academic ability and higher family income (41).  NJ students out migration by county reflects the county income; students from more affluent counties are more likely to go out of state for college (158)

• Students prefer to migrate to neighboring states; New Jersey students who attend college out of state primarily choose colleges in New York and Pennsylvania (43).

• Students who go to college out of state most often attend a private college (45); academic reputation was the most frequent reason NJ students chose an out of state college (159); NJ students who want to attend public schools tend to stay in state (167)

• Greater state support of higher education leads to less out migration and more in migration (48).  States with more schools and more programs retain more students (53)

• First generation college students (those whose parents did not go to college) are less likely to go out of state for college (52)

• Capacity (the number of spots available) had no effect on NJ student migration (137)

• New Jersey has a relatively small system in comparison to most other states in terms of number of students, faculty, and institutions (139)

• Rutgers is one of the highest quality institutions in the state, and this is known to be an important draw for high-achieving students (150).  Princeton and Rutgers attracted 45% of out of state students coming to New Jersey for college (163)

I have looked for outmigration statistics by county and have not been able to locate them, so I cannot report on the difference in outmigration in South Jersey as opposed to other areas of the state.  Since students who leave the state tend to be from wealthier families and tend to choose private colleges and universities, it doesn’t make sense to restructure public universities in an attempt to keep them here.

Since students who do go out of state for a college education step over one state border to do so, to New York or Pennsylvania, it is impossible to say whether they step back across that state line when they graduate.  One prime example of this is Gov. Chris Christie, who attended college in Delaware and then came back home.  At least two of his senior administrators, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs also went out of state for college and then came back to New Jersey.

It is important to make in-state higher education as attractive as possible to New Jersey’s high school students, restructuring higher education, especially in South Jersey, is not the way to do it.

Comments (5)

  1. JackHarris

    Thanks for doing this.

    One of the key issues is really one of NJ students who don’t get into Rutgers having a quality in-state fall back option. There isn’t one, so they go out of state if they can afford it.

    But no one wants to talk about that issue.

    The College of New Jersey is working hard to be that alternative but it will be decades before they establish a name for themselves outside of NJ and Eastern PA and build pipelines to the most prestigious graduate and professional schools.

    A similar fate awaits RutRow.

    If the legislature was serious about reforming NJ Higher Education they would have done an entirely different restructuring:

    1.) Merge UMDNJ into Rutgers all at once or in stages as originally proposed by the Kean and Barer reports.

    2.) Pumped money into the College of New Jersey to accelerate their development into an elite public liberal arts college.

    3.) Merged Rowan and Stockton to create a new University of South Jersey with strong research and professional school ties to Rutgers.

    4.) Created a new college or established a new campus of Rutgers, NJIT or the new University of South Jersey at the former Fort Monmouth properties in Monmouth County.

    (There are no 4 year public colleges or universities in Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic or Cape May Counties)

    5.) Streamlined the remaining NJ colleges and universities under a single chancellor or board to eliminate duplication and better coordinate resources. And maybe even unify faculty tenure and promotion standards like Rutgers has done across its three campuses.

    This would create a NJ higher education system composed of a.) a public AAU system in Rutgers with a strong medical/health sciences component, b.) a strong regional university in South Jersey, C.) an elite public liberal arts college and d.) a streamlined NJ College and University System.

    That would be the rational approach.  

  2. Endangered_Raptor

    Thank you for this detailed analysis against what I have always considered a very weak argument for the merger.

    As you state, it is impossible to say whether they return to NJ. But, if the students who leave are primarily going to PA and NY, chances are many will return to NJ for jobs/families/further education. I went way out of state, and every single person from NJ that I met at that university returned to NJ immediately upon graduating. It took me a little while longer, but I too returned to attend grad school and work and here I stay.

    How many of those pursuing undergrad degrees out of state return to NJ for graduate degrees? The argument that “New Jersey’s largest export is children” (yes that was said twice in earlier hearings…) is not valid given the data.

  3. birdofprey (Post author)

    Sorry for the delay in responding.  It was my pleasure to post this.  

    I also agree that Stockton has been ignored in this entire scheme.  

    We will have to wait and see what happens tomorrow.  Rumor has it that negotiation talks broke down this evening.  


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