By Brielle Bryan
As her peers argued over whether the popular New Jersey specialty was called Taylor ham or pork roll, freshman psychology major Samantha Goldfarb stared at them, befuddled. Goldfarb hails from Monroe, Connecticut, and had no idea what they were talking about.
About 7 percent of the undergraduate students at the College are from outside of New Jersey, according to the College’s website. While a lack of out-of-state students may seem like it is strictly an issue at the College, it appears to be a state-wide predicament.
New Jersey’s colleges are so full that only 9 percent of New Jersey college students come from out-of-state. In fact, many prospective students leave New Jersey for higher education because the state doesn’t have enough institutions to accommodate all the students, according to The Washington Post.
Goldfarb can feel singled out at times as a part of the minority of out-of-state students.
“New Jersey specifically seems to have its little quirks that everybody kind of knows about because it’s a small kind of tightly-knit state,” Goldfarb said. “You feel a little left out because it feels like you have a little tag above your head that just says ‘out-of-state student.’”
Megan Scarborough, a freshman art education major from Cranston, Rhode Island, also noticed how much she stood out to students from New Jersey.
“I have different words for some things, like we call water fountains ‘bubblers’ or roundabouts ‘rotaries’ in Rhode Island,” Scarborough said. “My friends will tease me to no end about certain vocabulary.”
Julia Heidler, a junior nursing major from Lakewood, Ohio, saw that in-state students at the College had preconceived notions about where she was from because they had never been there or knew someone who had lived there.
“People thought Ohio was full of cornfields and that I lived on a farm,” Heidler said.
The College currently offers out-of-state students the benefits of a free application when applying to the College, guaranteed housing all four years and scholarship money ranging from $1,000 to $12,000 per year to help offset tuition costs, according to the College’s website.
Some students feel that there are fewer out-of-state students because there are currently not enough incentives for them to attend the College.
“I had an out-of-state student scholarship coming into TCNJ, which lowered the costs to make it reasonable and justifiable for me to come to TCNJ, but I still pay more,” said Chris Blakeley, Student Government’s executive president and a junior civil engineering major from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Blakeley began to work with SG to make tuition more affordable for out-of-state students as an incentive to increase the amount attending the College.
“It’s in the early stages and it takes a little bit of time trying to present different facts, but a bunch of schools do it and usually they’re in a bigger system,” Blakeley said.
For New Jersey residents, the tuition and fees to attend the College — not including room and board — is $16,148, while it is $27,577 for out-of-state residents, according to the College’s website.
Scarborough said that attending the College is not cheap, and that she would not have decided to go there without receiving an out-of-state student scholarship on top of her scholarship with the Bonner program.
Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, noted that the difference in sticker price is significant between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Sticker price is the price to go to a college before financial aid awards are considered.
During the 2015 to 2016 academic year, the average annual sticker price — including tuition, fees, room and board — for an in-state student attending a four-year public college was $19,548 while the average annual sticker price for an out-of-state student attending a four-year public college was $34,031, according to Kiplinger.
There are multiple regional, state and college-specific programs that allow some students to qualify for in-state or heavily discounted tuition at out-of-state public schools.
“I’ve started to look at different ways we could potentially create a regional tuition rate,” Blakeley said. “So if you’re in a certain area outside of New Jersey it would be a lower cost.”
There are four regional organizations currently in place that help students from outside of New Jersey alleviate the cost of their education.
Through the Midwest Student Exchange program, students can save between $500 and $5,000 dollars a year if they choose to go to a college that in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Kansas or Michigan, as long as they reside in one of these states.
These tuition discounts are available at more than 100 participating colleges and universities. Students pay no more than 150 percent of the school’s in-state tuition cost at public colleges, and can receive 10 percent off the cost of tuition at participating private colleges, according to the Midwest Student Exchange Program.
The Western Undergraduate Exchange program offers eligible students 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate at participating public colleges in states such as Alaska, Arizona, California and Hawaii, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
While the midwestern and western regional programs do not require students to pursue a major that is not available in their home state, but southern and New England programs do require students to have certain majors that are not offered in-state in order to be eligible.
The Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market allows qualifying students to apply for in-state tuition at participating colleges from 13 southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Georgia, according to the Southern Regional Education Board.
Students are eligible for the New England Regional Student Program if they live in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont. The RSP enables thousands of New England residents to enroll in out-of-state New England public colleges and universities at a discount. In the 2016 to 2017 academic year, over 9,000 New England residents saved an estimated $60 million in tuition because of the RSP, according to the New England Board of Higher Education.
Despite several programs in place throughout the U.S., New Jersey seems to be one of the few states that is not a part of any regional program.
“We have to sort of invest some way into creating a new network for people to come to TCNJ, to know about TCNJ, and that’s getting people from Pennsylvania and New York,” Blakeley said.
States also have their own smaller-scale reciprocity programs to help determine who qualifies for in-state tuition. Some of them allow in-state tuition for students from anywhere within a neighboring state. Colorado and New Mexico have an agreement that allows qualifying students from either state to get in-state pricing in both states — a better deal than the regional Western Undergraduate Exchange program, according to Kiplinger.
The University of Arkansas waives 70 to 90 percent of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students from Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas who earn at least a 3.2 GPA and score at least 1160 on the SAT, according to Kiplinger.
Students feel that with all of the opportunities available at the College, they would benefit from adopting similar programs offered by other institutions. There are some students, however, that do not think it is necessary to increase the amount of incentives for out-of-state students to attend the College.
“As long as they’re hitting the necessary amount of students entering the school, I don’t think it matters where they’re from,” said Harrison Kelly, a junior interdisciplinary business major from Middletown, New Jersey.
Ben Schulman, a junior finance major from West Windsor, New Jersey, felt uncertain about the need to increase incentives. He said that if the College increases its efforts to bring in more out-of-state students, that might go against New Jersey’s efforts to recruit young people to work and live in New Jersey.
Other students feel that the problem is not creating more incentives, but stepping up the school’s marketing to prospective students outside of New Jersey.
Arjun Sahni, a sophomore computer science major and an international student from India, heard about the College because he has relatives who live in Hillsborough, New Jersey. His sister came to the College first, and after she recommended it to him, he decided to apply.
“When I told my friends that I go to TCNJ, no one had any clue what it was,” Sahni said. “It wasn’t just friends in India. I have some friends in America — they’re from California. When I told them they also had no idea.”
Goldfarb recalled her experience of sharing her college decision with her friends in Connecticut.
“Everyone else was like, ‘where even is that?’ They had no idea where it was. No one had even heard of it because … people have barely heard of it in New Jersey,” Goldfarb said.
Blakeley said that although the College is looking to get more out-of-state students, it doesn’t necessarily plan on increasing the number of students accepted in the undergraduate program, overall. He believes that an increase in the amount of out-of-state students would bring positive change to the College.
“I think it could offset the number of New Jersey students, and eventually decrease the acceptance rate, which is pretty good for an institution,” Blakeley said.
While some students feel there should be more incentives made for out-of-state students in New Jersey, as well as more awareness of the College as an institution, some also feel that there should be more programs for out-of-state students currently at the College.
“It would have been helpful to create the sense of community that people who live here in New Jersey already have,” Goldfarb said.
According to Sahni, the College provides transportation services to the airport for international students. Heidler, however, was not offered that same opportunity when she did not have a car on campus.
“It was difficult finding out how to use the trains, and flying out alone was stressful at first,” Heidler said. “Now that I drive I think it would be beneficial if there was a way for out-of-state students to connect so that if some of us lived generally close we could carpool home.”
Heidler also thinks that there should be a way of joining out-of-state students to help them get acclimated to the College during their first few weeks.
While he did not have those initial connections coming into the College that a lot of students had, Blakeley said that he would not have attended out-of-state student events on campus during his first semester at the College.
“Most people don’t want to feel like they’re the outside group, and that can be a reality,” Blakeley said.
Although the transition to a new state may be tough at first, most out-of-state students agree that the College provides many learning and networking opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to receive elsewhere.
“Since starting at TCNJ, having working, incredible artists as my professors, learning about art theory and art history — art has truly become everything to me. It’s the most fascinating thing to me now, it matters so much more and it was TCNJ that gave me that,” Scarborough said.
Goldfarb said that she also feels that the College is the perfect fit for her, and hopes that other out-of-state students become more aware of the different programs and opportunities the school has to offer. Besides, how else would students from other places learn about the perpetual debate amongst New Jerseyans over the food referred to as both Taylor ham and pork roll?