Gov. Phil Murphy wants to create a Student Bill of Rights for college students.

During a visit to Rutgers University-Newark on Tuesday, the Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis announced the release of the administration's vision for higher education.

Murphy said the Student Bill of Rights is all about students, not the educational institutions they attend.

“This is a student-driven plan. This is a plan created through direct engagement with and listening to the needs of our students," he said.

He said New Jersey needs to respond “to their needs of accessibility and affordability; to their need for better information when making decisions regarding where to go to school, including the real cost; to their need for having a real voice in the decisions that impact their life on campus and as a member of our larger New Jersey community and family.”

The governor’s proposed state spending plan for 2020 includes $20 million in new higher education operating aid, and a redistribution of $15 million in current operating aid for colleges and universities.

The $35 million is to be distributed based on the total number of graduates at each college or university, the total number of under-represented racial and ethnic minority degrees awarded, and the number of lower-income students using financial aid at their particular college or university.

Murphy said the objectives of the plan affirms the goal of having all Garden State residents, “regardless of life circumstances,” have the opportunity to attend college and get a degree that prepares them for the realities of the job market.

He noted the Garden State already has a talented, educated workforce, but he'd like to see 65 percent of all working-age residents hold a college degree by the year 2025. He also wants to try to keep more graduates from leaving the state.

"I’m tired of New Jersey’s leading export being our college-bound high school seniors," he said.

The Student Bill of Rights vision includes 5 main objectives:

  • Helping students to post-secondary pathways through enhanced partnerships and access to fee-free college-preparatory programs.
  • Ensuring college access and affordability by examining new partnerships between the state and institutions to meaningfully reduce higher education costs.
  • Building support systems necessary to make sure students thrive in college and get across the graduation stage.
  • Ensuring students feel safe, supported, and included in their chosen learning environments.
  • Cultivating research, innovation, and talent to deepen and recapture our place as a leader in the innovation economy and effectively prepare students for success after college.

On Tuesday morning, Murphy signed an executive order creating a Task Force on New Jersey’s Plan for Higher Education.

The Task Force is divided into five working groups:

  • Creating On-ramps to College
  • Making College Affordable
  • Student Success
  • Safe and Inclusive Learning Environments
  • Research, Innovation, and Talent

Each group will issue a final report on its subject area in the next nine months.


You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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