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Senator Tom Kean, Jr.

Senator Tom Kean

Kean Legislation to Study Migration of NJ’s High School Graduates to Out-of-State Colleges Passes Committee

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Garden State Is Nation’s Top Exporter of College-Bound Students

The Senate Higher Education Committee has approved legislation by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean to study why so many New Jersey high school graduates choose to attend college in other states.

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean’s bill directs the NJ Secretary of Higher Education to study why so many NJ high school graduates choose to attend college in other states. (

“New Jersey has more high school graduates head to out-of-state colleges than any other state in the nation,” said Kean, a member of the committee. “Many never return home after college to strengthen our workforce, build our economy, or to make civic contributions to our communities. This brain drain is a real loss to the Garden State, and it’s something that we must understand better to reverse.”

An analysis by the Washington Post of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows New Jersey’s export of 31,510 graduates in 2008 was the most in the nation.

That’s nearly double the loss of the next highest state, Texas, of 17,716 students.

Kean’s legislation, S-2993, directs the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, in consultation with the state’s Commissioner of Education, to conduct a study to determine the extent and causes of the out-migration of New Jersey’s high school graduates to colleges and universities in other states.

Kean noted that there are many anecdotal reasons that people cite to explain the outmigration, including:

  • New Jersey’s high school graduates are highly recruited as they are better prepared by our great public schools than students from other states;
  • Colleges seek students from high-income New Jersey families who can afford and are willing to pay higher out-of-state tuition rates, benefiting their budgets;
  • A desired major isn’t offered at a New Jersey school, or the program isn’t as good as those at out-of-state institutions; and
  • Students just want to get out of New Jersey.

“There are many potential reasons that our college-bound students leave New Jersey, but there’s never been a systematic analysis that adequately examines the issue,” said Kean. “If we don’t fully understand the problem, we can’t effectively address it. After investing so much to educate our next generation, it would be a real boost to have more of our talented graduates plant roots at home in the Garden State.”

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