TRENTON — New Jersey spends a lot of money on public education from pre-K through high school – only to see the nation’s biggest net outflow of high school graduates to colleges in other states. State officials might be required to study why it happens.

A bill advanced this week by the Senate Higher Education Committee would require state’s higher education secretary to survey high school seniors and guidance counselors about reasons graduates leave New Jersey for college, plus review the academic and socioeconomic characteristics of students who stay here or leave.

“One of the things we’re very concerned about is keeping our best and our brightest students here in New Jersey. One of the issues that we’ve had, it’s become a serious problem, so many of them are moving out,” said Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, who said many then don’t return after college.

“We want to rebrand our school system, our educational system, so that it appears that people actually want to come to New Jersey to college,” Cunningham said. “And one way to do that is to see what we’re missing.”

Christine Buteas, chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the study is vitally important.

“This legislation addresses the outmigration of New Jersey’s millennial population and is very much a big concern to the business community because we want to ensure an adequate workforce as we move forward,” Buteas said.

The NJBIA and other groups put out a study in January on retaining millennials, called “The Education Equation.” Buteas said an updated report with additional recommendations will be released soon.

A New Jersey Future report issued last year found millennials are leaving many parts of New Jersey and that their numbers are down 2 percent in the state in a period when they were up 7 percent nationally.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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